Ethnicity and territory in the late colonial imagination


The map shows the distribution of ethnic groups in Indonesia as understood by a Dutch observer in about 1925.  Although some features of the colonial system worked to draw the indigenous peoples of the archipelago into a single, eventually Indonesian, nationality, Dutch policy also came to distinguish more sharply between different indigenous ethnic identities. In the late colonial period, this distinction underpinned a Dutch claim that colonial rule worked to protect weaker and more vulnerable ethnic groups from vigorous ones like the Javanese and Bugis.  A  notable feature of this map is the bundling of smaller groups into manageable collective identities such as ‘Moluccans' and ‘Papuans'.  Especially in eastern Indonesia, the map ties ethic identity closely to the political divisions used by Dutch administration. The map gives no clue to the fact that a substantial Malay community lived across the Melaka Strait in the Malay Peninsula.

Further reading

Bedner, Adriaan, and Stijn van Huis, 'The return of the native in Indonesian law: indigenous communities in Indonesian legislation', Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 164, nos.2/3 (2008), pp. 165-193.

King, Victor T., Ethnic classification and ethnic relations: a Borneo case study. Hull: University of Hull, Centre for South-East Asian Studies, 1979. 

Teitler, Gerke, 'The mixed company: fighting power and ethnic relations in the Dutch Colonial Army, 1890-1920', South East Asia Research 10, no.3 (Nov 2002), pp. 361-374.

'Volkerenkaart van Ned. Oost-IndiĆ«' [manuscript, s.l.:  s.n.  ca. 1925] [KIT]

Year span

1925 - 1925