Item description for Memories of the East: Abstracts of Dutch Interviews About the Netherlands East Indies, Indonesia, New Guinea (1930-1962) in the Oral History Project Collection by Fridus Steijlen...
Between 1997 and 2001 an extensive series of Dutch-language interviews was recorded with the aim of documenting "the end of the Netherlands colonial presence in Asia." These interviews concentrated on experiences in what is called "The East" from the 1930s until the early 1960s. They present a broad spectrum of material, depicting fear, anger, and courage in a turbulent historical period. But they also provide a vivid window on ordinary day-to-day life, at home and at work.
The Foundation for the Oral History of Indonesia (SMGI) was established especially for this project. It organized and conducted interviews with 724 individuals, among them Dutch, Indo-Europeans, Chinese, Moluccans, Menadonese, and Javanese. A sound archive comprising 2,800 hours of recording is available for consultation at the KITLV (Royal Institute of Linguistics and Anthropology) in Leiden. The abstracts presented in this volume are an introduction to this very rich source of information.
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Studio: University of Washington Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 6" Height: 9.25" Weight: 2.2 lbs.
Publisher University of Washington Press
ISBN 9067181994 ISBN13 9789067181990
Reviews - What do customers think about Memories of the East: Abstracts of Dutch Interviews About the Netherlands East Indies, Indonesia, New Guinea (1930-1962) in the Oral History Project Collection?
Ultimately, Hundreds of Pages of Frustration Aug 18, 2004
This is a wise and positive purchase for the serious and active scholar and student. It's also a devilishly enticing yet ultimately frustrating collection of unrealized stories for the casual reader, even one familiar with Dutch colonialism and Southeast Asia in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.
The stated purpose of the book is so that readers "can have some idea of the scale and character of the collection." "The collection" is the tapes and assorted databasing and archives of the (Dutch) Foundation for the Oral History of Indonesia project. The project itself was designed to address "what was life like in the final decades of Dutch colonialism and during the first years of Indonesian independence." The seven-page introduction is direct and to the point, and thoroughly describes the project's purpose, its methodology, and some of the clearly implied "why's" and "wherefore's." It's clear and concise, and tells what the entire project is about, giving a good feel for the massive scope, long term, and dedicated participation of the scholars and interviewees involved. The introduction is just right.
The abstracts are the core of this book, 578 pages of single-paragraph synopses from 1189 interviews of 724 people who had been in Holland's "East." The first abstract is from a housewife who married a Dutch colonial soldier; the last is from a school teacher who taught a prominent occupying Japanese official how to speak Malay. In between are stories of privileged colonial life, captivity, torture, deprivation, occupation, uncertainty in time of civil/revolutionary war, and above all transition and uncertainty. The stories come from bakers, soldiers, businessmen, husbands and wives, spies, engineers, public servants, students, and hundreds more. The scope is wide-ranging and highly varied, each abstract standing as a separate and distinct story, a non-fiction memoir.
Overall, the book is incredibly frustrating. Each individual story is a window into a unique and fascinating life which, due to the necessary brevity of the abstracts, is closed as quickly as it opens, in an average of maybe twenty lines. There are fascinating stories of death and heartbreak, family reunion, love, deceit, and conflict, but there is never any amplifying narrative. The abstract is all there is. The only way to complete the story is to learn Dutch, travel to the Netherlands, and sit through the original tapes, since not even transcripts were made of these conversations. As I read through the hundreds of pages of hundreds of abstracts, with a new source and entirely new existence at least once per page, I couldn't help but wish for a genuine story, a beginning, middle, and end. In almost every abstract the basic elements were there, but there was never any resolution, never any amplification.
The only real value this book and its collection of abstracts has is to the professional researcher. This being said, the way the book and its information is arranged does not necessarily assist one bent on research. There is a clear methodology to the interviews, and each source named, with a source number, interview details, and occupation and locational data in Southeast Asia. But nowhere in the book is all of the hard data contained in the 1189 abstracts collated and organized into a tabular or other form to make it easier to search. There is an index of geographical names, and there is a general index, as well as a listing of the proper names of each of the interviewees. Where is the index of proper/personal names to complement the listing of the names of those interviewed--the interviewees are not the only individuals mentioned by name, not by a long shot. There is no general thematic index, the most logical and common basic starting point for any kind of research. The index of geographical names is sadly incomplete, with dozens and dozens of places mentioned in the text not included. The same is true of the general index, a pitifully paltry effort of only twelve pages for over 570 pages of information. Dozens of places, concepts, persons, organizations, businesses, government offices and elements have failed to be listed. The weak general and geographical indices, and the list of interviewees are not cross-referenced at all. For an effort of this magnitude, and with word processing technology available 2002, there is no excuse for anything short of a comprehensive, detailed, and thoroughly cross-referenced grouping of indices. This is especially egregious fault in a book that is so clearly geared to the serious researcher. Short of doing extensive library/online research or even going to Holland to research the collection personally, this book should be the simple, accessible, and above all comprehensive entry point for further use of the overall collection. No, this is not the stated purpose of the book (as quoted above), but making the data readily available to those who wish to take advantage is clearly a responsibility of those who undertook the project in the first place.
In conclusion, this book is best purchased and actively utilized by the dedicated researcher, the scholar and/or student who is actively engaged in the subjects touched upon by this oral history project (late Dutch colonialism, Japanese World War II occupation in Southeast Asia, Indonesian nationalism and revolution, and the early days of Indonesian independence). This book sadly is not a good choice for a casual reader, even one who is interested in and well-read in the Dutch colonial experience, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, etc. The casual reader will be increasingly annoyed and frustrated by the parade of hundreds of fascinating personal stories of adventure, tragedy, and triumph, brutally truncated into maddeningly short abstracts.
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