Citizens of empire: Some comparative observations on the evolution of creole nationalism in colonial Indonesia

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This article proposes a heterodox perspective on the emergence of Indonesian nationalism, which is informed by literature on Senegal and Bengal. This choice is not coincidental, as these locations were the heartlands of the former French and English colonial empires. My focus is on how self-perceptions of the colonial societies' literati became revolutionized in the course of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century by various shades and combinations of liberalism, Marxism, Islam, theosophy, and so on. These flows of thought contradicted existing particularistic notions about ethnicity, caste, religion, or class. I intend to explore how the intellectual leaders of the comprador classes translated these contradictions into demands for a gradual extension of citizenship to colonial subjects and for responsible government. These were the central issues during the First World War, when the metropolitan governments badly needed the loyalty and sacrifices of their colonial subjects. In the case of colonial Indonesia we will move our argument one step further. Although the halcyon days of the notion of imperial citizen were over almost immediately after the First World War, we will argue that by that time the creole political tradition had survived the repression of late colonial society and had positioned itself solidly in the emerging notion of Indonesia, when it was proclaimed by the Sumpah Pemuda (the Pledge of the Indonesian Youth) in 1928. © 2004 Society for Comparative Study of Society and History.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)656-681
JournalComparative Studies in Society and History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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