Novels produced during the period of Dutch colonialism between 1890-1942 that revealed the ambivalence between the colonisers and the colonised did not receive enough attention from Indonesian literary researchers. As a matter of fact, such novels contain matters that in official sources are considered irrelevant so they can actually reveal undercover colonial truths.
“In general, Dutch colonial literature tends to be ignored by Indonesian literary researchers despite their Indonesian translation. This rare occassion prompted this research to give another outlook to the Dutch colonial studies in Indonesia,” said Sudibyo in his doctoral promotion at Faculty of Cultural Sciences UGM on Wednesday (31/5).
In his dissertation, the Indonesian literature lecturer made analysis on the colonial discourse related to the stereotype that is ambivalent, the third place, and uncanny in Dutch colonial novels in the period between 1890-1942. Specifically, he analysed 5 novels, Soerapati: Historich Romantische Schets uit de Geschiendenis van Java by Melati van Java, Orpheus in de Dessa by Augusta de Wit, De Stille Kracht by Louis Couperus, Goena-Goena by P.A. Daum, and Rubber by Madelon Szekely-Lulofs.
Sudibyo explained it is seen in the five novels that Dutch colonial novels have strong links with interests that are pragmatic utilitarian. The writers, whether they are affiliated with certain political groups or not, have similar interests in voicing the colonial interests.
“It is not easy to deny that ideas on Dutch colonialism implicitly or explicitly are seen in the Dutch colonial literature. In other words, the writers are insperable part of the system and practises of colonialism,” said Sudibyo.
According to Sudibyo, through vocalisation of a native Indonesian, for example, in Soerapati, it shows a strong tendency towards the ideas on the politics of association wanting that the colony can be led by native people as long as they have equal qualifications with that of the Dutch or have experienced total Westernisation.
“Through the figure of Surapati, Melati Van Java shows that the target of colonialism has been achieved, the person who has been Westernised is the focus of the success of ethical approach and civilising mission,” he said.
Meanwhile, the tendency of ideology of the writer which is represented through stereotypes, third room, and uncanny in th Dutch colonial literature implicitly has ties with ethical politics that is the continuity of policy imposed by the Dutch that uses the native elites as their arm.
So, according to Sudibyo, esthetic ideology studies are required for Dutch literature because this literary corpus is an evergreen inspiration for the writing of modern Indonesian literature since the colonial period up to recently. Themes on Dutch colonialism are used to develop nationalism, raise nostalgia, and allegory for the authoritarian New Order system of power.
“It is time to make a critical study to include Dutch literature as part of Indonesian literary studies,” Sudibyo concluded.