Conference: Decolonization and the origins of ‘excessive’ violence

Decolonization and the origins of ‘excessive’ violence: Dutch military operations in Indonesia (1945-1950) in comparative perspective

10-12 December 2014 Leiden


The conference is initiated by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden, the Netherlands, and deals with the Indonesian decolonization war of 1945-1949. The aim in particular is to explore the occurrence of ‘excessive’ violence or (war crimes) during this conflict. In Dutch historiography there has been limited attention for the violent nature of these closing years of Dutch colonialism, while the possibility of Dutch war crimes remains a sensitive and under-explored subject. By way of a comparative approach – both diachronically and synchronically –  the goal is to achieve a better understanding of the role ‘excessive’ violence played during this conflict. We want to discuss how historians can further investigate this important but neglected period of (Dutch) colonial history.

Conference Programme:

Wednesday 10 December (public event)

Venue: National Museum of Ethnology, Steenstraat 1, Leiden

The first half of the afternoon is in English; after the break we continue in Dutch.

13:30–14:00    Venue open

14:00–14:10    Welcome and introduction

14:10–15:00    Christian Gerlach, keynote lecture: ‘Famine and insurgency around 1945: the cases of Indonesia, Indochina and Greece’
In his lecture, Christian Gerlach puts the war of independence in Indonesia 1945-49 in a broader perspective. He examines connections between rapid social mobility in the context of famines, political discontent and insurgency. Such developments occurred in several countries at the end of World War II. While processes within Indonesian, Vietnamese and Greek societies are in the center of the analysis, some attention will also be given to comparing the violent responses to these uprisings by colonial or occupation forces.

15:00–15:20    Remco Raben: ‘Descent into violence: the one or the many? Connecting Indonesian and Dutch murderousness in Indonesia’s revolution’

15:20–15:40    Abdul Wahid: ‘Coming to terms with a “violent and emotional past”: Indonesian perspectives on the decolonization war and its long-term legacies’

15:40–16:00    Discussion

16:00–16:15    Coffee

16:15–17:30    Debate (in Dutch): ‘Van verhitte debatten tot koudwatervrees?’ (From heated debate to cold feet?)
Introduction by Gert Oostindie (director KITLV)

Moderated by Marjan Schwegman (director NIOD Amsterdam)
Participants: Nicolaos van Dam (former Dutch ambassador to Indonesia), Cees Fasseur (prof.em. Leiden University), Piet Kamphuis (director Netherlands Institute of Military History, The Hague), Wim Manuhutu (Free University Amsterdam, former director Moluccan Museum Utrecht), Sjoerd Sjoerdsma (Member of Parliament for D66)

Thursday 11 December

Venue: KITLV reading room, Reuvensplaats 2, Leiden

9:00–9:15        Welcome and coffee

9:15–10:45      Panel 1: ‘“Excessive” violence and its constraints in Indonesia and Malaya’
Moderator: Henk Schulte Nordholt

Ireen Hoogenboom and Gert Oostindie: ‘Dutch war crimes in the Indonesian decolonization war? Evidence from egodocuments’

Karl Hack: ‘Excessive violence and its limitation: notes from Malaya’
Discussant: Stef Scagliola

10:45–11:00    Coffee

11:00–12:30    Panel 2: ‘Colonial atrocities, concealed and revealed’
Moderator: Fridus Steijlen

David Anderson: ‘Hidden in plain sight? The rediscovery of Kenya’s colonial violence (1952-60)’
Raphaëlle Branche: ‘The quest for the origins of “excessive violence” during the Algerian war of independence in post-colonial France’
Discussant: Gert Oostindie

12:30-13:30     Lunch

13:30–15:00    Panel 3: ‘Defining the illegal: criminalizing the acts of the enemy’
Moderator: Gert Oostindie

Robert Cribb: ‘War crimes and the problem of insurgency in Southeast Asia, 1942-1949’
Bart Luttikhuis: ‘“Reason for arrest: suspicious attitude”: psychological terror and the intelligence services in Indonesia, 1945-1949’
Discussant: Martin Thomas
15:00–15:30    Coffee

15:30–17:00    Panel 4: ‘State violence and the failing colonial state’
Moderator: Bart Luttikhuis

James House: ‘Comparing forms of repressive state violence in Algiers, Casablanca and Paris during decolonisation (1945-1962)’
Marieke Bloembergen: ‘Fear of decolonization? Police violence in late colonial Java and Sumatra’
Discussant: Gerry van Klinken

Friday 12 December

Venue: KITLV reading room, Reuvensplaats 2, Leiden

8:45–9:00        Welcome and coffee

9:00–10:30      Panel 5: ‘Terror between rhetoric and social implications’
Moderator: Remco Raben

Martin Thomas: ‘Repression, reprisals, and rhetorics of massacre in the Algerian war’
Anne van der Veer: ‘Responding to anti-Chinese violence during the Indonesian revolution: the Pao An Tui’
Discussant: Peter Keppy

10:30–10:45    Coffee

10:45–12:15    Panel 6: ‘War crimes, humanitarian law, and the legitimization of violence’
Moderator: Robert Cribb

Fabian Klose: ‘Radicalized violence and human rights discourse in the age of decolonization’
Boyd van Dijk: ‘Common Article 3: a history of humanitarian law, empire, and cold war, 1919-1949’
Discussant: Esther Zwinkels

12:15–13:00    Concluding discussion
Opened with reflections by Henk Schulte Nordholt and Christian Gerlach

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