NIAS-project starts today

Today, April 1 2019, the last of the research projects, Comparing the wars of decolonization, has begun. This project engages in comparative research in order to learn more about causes, forms and nature of (extreme) violence by Dutch military forces in their attempt to reoccupy the Indonesian archipelago (1945-1949).The project is an intensive collaboration between several Dutch scholars in the research programme and a team of six (international) experts, who are accommodated at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), from April up to July 2019. Project leader Thijs Brocades Zaalberg wrote a blog about his preparations for the research project. You can read it here.
The NIAS-themegroup. From left to right, standing: Stef Scagliola, Natalya Vince, Martin Thomas, Peter Romijn, Hew Bennett, Brian Linn, Roel Frakking and Azarja Harmanny. In front: project leaders Bart Luttikhuis and Thijs Brocades Zaalberg. Absent: Esther Captain and Pierre Asselin.

Team of international experts

The theme group Comparing the wars of decolonization consists of a team of six international experts: Pierre Asselin (San Diego State University), Huw Bennett (Cardiff University) , Brian Linn (Texas A&M University), Stef Scagliola (University of Luxembourg), Martin Thomas (University of Exeter), Natalya Vince (University of Portsmouth). On the special theme group page of the NIAS, you can find more information about their backgrounds and about the Dutch researchers in our programme with whom they will collaborate on several issues.
The NIAS-building in the heart of Amsterdam.

Save the date: May 22, 2019

Wednesday afternoon , May 22, 2019 the annual NIAS Lecture 2019 will take place in the Lutherse Kerk (Amsterdam). This year’s theme is Decolonization and the Political use of History, with contributions by Ian Buruma (Occupying the Indonesian Archipelago: Japanese and Dutch imperial justifications and the political use of history, and by Esther Captain and Pierre Asselin (Bloody de-/re-colonization: Dutch and French responses to revolutionary violence in the Indonesian archipelago and Indochina, 1945-1946), who are both members of the NIAS-theme group Comparing the wars of decolonization.

Save the date: June 20 2019

Thursday June 20, 2019, the theme group Comparing the wars of decolonization will present its findings during a conference at Amsterdam Central Library. Registration will be possible in the course of this spring, via our website.

Witnesses & Contemporaries

Network meeting, with: Fridus Steijlen, Jayne Slot, Stephanie Welvaart, Saskia Moerbeek en Mietji Hully.

The Witnesses & Contemporaries project, which is part of the research programme Independence, decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950, focuses on gathering the experiences of those who were involved, both in the Netherlands and Indonesia. January 24th, a network meeting was organized in cooperation with the Historical Centre Overijssel / IJsselacademie (Zwolle). Specific reason was the presentation of a website with fifteen veterans from Overijssel, who fought in the decolonization war in Indonesia. The interviews were conducted by historian Ewout van der Horst. Stephanie Welvaart wrote a report about the network meeting: ‘The power of personal stories’.
Read more
An overview of the public activities which are (co-)organized by Witnesses & Contemporaries can be found in the project’s agenda (Dutch only).

May 1947, from the collection of T. Smid, orderly. Collection NIOD

About the relationship between history and memory, Stephanie Welvaart and Eveline Buchheim – both working for the Witnesses & contemporaries project – wrote a blog for online platform Over de muur (Across the wall). You can read this blog, Colonial-era recollections in a different light, here.

On its site, the Witnesses & Contemporaries project publishes a series of blogs about the interviews held and about the valuable ego documents (such as letters and diaries) the project has been alerted to. Recently Elsbeth Locher-Scholten, former senior lecturer at Utrecht University and specialized in the history of colonialism and decolonization, wrote the column Mature colonial memories for Witnesses & Contemporaries. In this column she explores colonial violence and colonial memories, partly in response to actual discussions about Kester Freriks’ publication Tempo Doeloe, een omhelzing (Tempo Doeloe, a warm embrace).

How to acknowledge colonial injustice?

Mr. Sukarman, son of (widow) Ibu Cawi (1928-2014) and chair of the Stichting Rawagede, who has been defending the interests of widows since 1995. Photo by Nicole Immler.

In 2011 the Court of The Hague ruled that the state of the Netherlands was liable for the mass-executions in Rawagede (now Balongsari) in West-Java in 1947. The lawsuits were brought by the Foundation Committee of Dutch Debts of Honour ( KUKB) , founded by Jeffry Pondaag, on behalf of surviving relatives of victims. Apologies were made and indemnities to the bereaved were paid. Historian Nicole Immler travelled to Indonesia to explore the effects of the lawsuits in Balongsari. Anne van Mourik spoke to her about the question: ‘How to acknowledge colonial injustice?'

Conversation with subscribers open letter

On Thursday, January 31, a meeting took place at the NIOD between researchers and programme leaders of Independence, decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950, and a delegation of the subscribers to an open letter with objections against the research programme. You can watch the video registration of the meeting here.
Do you have any questions about the research programme? We will be happy to answer them. Please contact us via We already answered a number of frequented asked questions here.
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