Monarchy and visual culture in colonial Indonesia

Photographic subjects examines photography at royal celebrations during the reigns of Wilhelmina (1898–1948) and Juliana (1948–80), a period spanning the zenith and fall of Dutch rule in Indonesia. It is the first monograph in English on the Dutch monarchy and the Netherlands’ modern empire in the age of mass and amateur photography.

This book reveals how Europeans and Indigenous people used photographs taken at Queen’s Day celebrations to indicate the ritual uses of portraits of Wilhelmina and Juliana in the colonies. Such photographs were also objects of exchange across imperial networks. Photograph albums were sent as gifts by Indigenous royals in ‘snapshot diplomacy’ with the Dutch monarchy. Ordinary Indonesians sent photographs to Dutch royals in a bid for recognition and subjecthood. Professional and amateur photographers associated the Dutch queens with colonial modernity and with modes of governing difference across an empire of discontiguous territory and ethnically diverse people. The gendered and racial dimensions of Wilhelmina’s and Juliana’s engagement with their subjects emerge uniquely in photographs, which show these two women as female kings who related to their Dutch and Indigenous subjects in different visual registers.

Photographic subjects advances methods in the use of photographs for social and cultural history, reveals the entanglement of Dutch and Indonesian histories in the twentieth century, and provides a new interpretation of Wilhelmina and Juliana as imperial monarchs. The book is essential for scholars and students of colonial history, South-east Asian and Indonesian studies, and photography and visual studies.

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Royal Indonesian visits to the Dutch court in the early twentieth century

This chapter examines the assumption from the perspective of both Dutch and Indonesian royal courts. It argues that Queen Wilhelmina presided over her country's colonial possessions in absentia, without ever gracing the East Indies, West Indies or Suriname with a personal tour for the duration of her half-century reign, such an examination is long overdue. Indeed, the only direct encounters between the Dutch monarch and Indonesian royals happened in the Netherlands, at her court. The chapter shows how such meetings were represented in Dutch print media and how they were privately assessed by the Dutch court. It also shows how Indonesian royals negotiated their own status as aristocrats during these encounters, by conforming in person but asserting some agency in the gifts they presented to the queen and her household. The opportunities and costs of encounters between Dutch and Indonesian royals were complex and required careful negotiation for both sides.

in Royals on tour
The Dutch colonial world during Queen Wilhelmina’s reign, 1898–1948

This chapter introduces Queen Wilhelmina, a monarch who never toured her colonies, yet was better known and celebrated there than any of her predecessors and thus represents perhaps the only truly imperial monarch in Dutch history. It examines the development of mass photography in the Netherlands East Indies (colonial Indonesia) during Wilhelmina’s reign (1898–1948). It was photography above all other media that ‘globalised’ the Dutch monarchy for colonial subjects in a way that enabled a wide range of her subjects, from Indigenous royals to ordinary people, to creatively respond to and interact with this important imperial institution.

in Photographic subjects
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Portraits of the monarch in colonial ritual

This chapter charts the growing, diversifying circulation of the Dutch monarch’s image for different audiences and purposes across the early twentieth century. It discusses Queen Wilhelmina (r. 1898–1948) and Queen Juliana (r. 1948–80), portraits of whom played an important ceremonial role at government and viceregal occasions in the East Indies, and were also adapted in creative ways by different ethnic groups as effigies at pageants. In demonstrating how the queens’ portraits were used in imperial rituals, rather than simply attending to representation, this chapter addresses scholarship on royal tours, mass spectacle and empire that has to date overlooked the role of photography in forging connections between monarchs and their colonial subjects. The chapter assesses colonial audiences’ engagement with European monarchies beyond the parameters of the ‘royal tour’, which was actually uncommon in most empires other than British overseas possessions.

in Photographic subjects
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Mass photography, monarchy and the making of colonial subjects

This chapter reveals how colonial subjects recorded their own participation in royal celebrations as amateur photographers, and collected mass-produced photographs of the Dutch monarchy, thus placing the East Indies and family events at the centre of historic, imperial occasions. It shows how family photography emerged as an important medium for diverse colonial populations to forge a cosmopolitan identity predicated on support for an institution that was still mostly parochial (a national monarchy) at the beginning of Wilhelmina’s reign in 1898, but emphatically international (in terms of an empire) by the 1940s, when Wilhelmina was in her maturity. It also explores the connections between the emergence of family photography and the popularisation of the Dutch monarchy during the 1930s, particularly through the marriage and childbearing of Crown Princess Juliana, when the image of the ‘ordinary’ monarchy first emerged.

in Photographic subjects
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Lights, camera and … ‘Ethical’ rule!

The personal association between Queen Wilhelmina and the Ethical Policy, a doctrine of liberal reform that she announced early in her reign (in 1901), is examined in this chapter for how it manifested in royal celebrations. At the start of her reign, lanterns and gaslights at royal pageants marked a continuation of centuries-old festival practices in both the East Indies and the Netherlands. However, the electrification of the Indies proceeded apace under Wilhelmina’s rule. This chapter uses published commemorative books, photographs taken by colonial officials who orchestrated festivals, and amateur private photographs to show how the electrification of the Indies was photographed on annual Queen’s Day celebrations and at other milestones of Wilhelmina’s reign. The spectacular uses of night photography in particular gave colonial photographers an opportunity to show how ‘modern’ the East Indies was, more so even than the Netherlands, and thus to celebrate the ‘progress’ made under the Ethical Policy. Photography articulated a complex association between modernisation, benevolent Dutch colonialism and the monarchy in ways that refused the peripheral status of the Indies relative to the metropole.

in Photographic subjects
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Photographic encounters between Dutch and Indonesian royals

This chapter examines diplomatic relations between the Dutch monarchy and the rulers of Central Java’s so-called ‘Princely States’ which had, since the 1830s, effectively been vassals to the Dutch crown. Just as Queen Wilhelmina never toured her colonies, Central Java’s royals avoided travelling to the Dutch court, and instead used photographs to negotiate their representations to the Dutch monarchy. Pakubuwono X, Hamengku Buwono VIII and Pakualam VII sent luxurious photograph albums featuring themselves and/or their courts as gifts to Queen Wilhelmina and Crown Princess Juliana to mark royal milestones. This chapter reveals how these Javanese kings and princes exerted the power of refusal in not meeting Dutch monarchs in person, instead using photographs to present themselves as modern, innovative rulers with formidable dynasties and impressive courts.

in Photographic subjects
Unity in diversity at royal celebrations

This chapter analyses photographs of Wilhelmina’s subjects participating in koninginnedag festivals from both the East Indies and the Netherlands. Photographs of games and competitions, traditional dances adapted to new purposes and the distinctive costumes of folk and ethnic ‘types’ at royal celebrations appeared frequently in the photographs of European elites throughout the Dutch colonial world. The chapter explains the intellectual movements in ethnography and ‘folk studies’ that underpinned this photographic convergence in Wilhelmina’s lifetime, and the political role ascribed to the monarch as a benevolent unifying force that transcended geographical distance and racial difference. This chapter also attends to representations of the monarch’s body – that of a European, female king – to explain how photography mediated Wilhelmina’s and Juliana’s relationships to their subjects. In having themselves photographed wearing folk costumes, Dutch royals bodily identified with and mirrored the diversity they were expected to recognise in their Dutch subjects. By contrast, the queen never physically embodied the ethnic and religious diversity of her colonial subjects.

in Photographic subjects

This chapter examines continuity and change in photographs of royal celebrations made by Dutch authorities during the long decolonisation of the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia. It discusses the celebration of Queen Juliana in Dutch New Guinea (1948–62). It also presents evidence that, during the Dutch military actions (1945–50) that preceded Indonesia’s independence, royal celebrations were an important opportunity for Dutch soldiers to celebrate victories and claim territorial sovereignty for the Netherlands. Royal celebrations were also instrumental in the battle for civilian hearts and minds, particularly to demonstrate the benevolence of Dutch soldiers to Indonesians. This chapter reveals that Wilhelmina was not just a hero of the Second World War in the Netherlands, but also very much a soldiers’ queen in Indonesia during the dying days of the Dutch empire in Asia.

in Photographic subjects
Salutations from a Dutch queen’s supporters in a British South Africa

In 1910 the Union of South Africa became a British Dominion. However, rather than proclaim loyalty to the British monarch –the titular head of the British empire – some South Africans, notably those who identified as Afrikaners or Netherlanders, professed loyalty to the monarch of a rival empire, the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. This chapter examines oorkonden (decorative letters) sent to Wilhelmina from her supporters in South Africa throughout her reign (1898–1948). The letters provide new evidence of how links with a Dutch colonial past that pre-dated British colonisation were revived by a white community reeling from defeat in the South African War (1899–1902), who continued to contest certain modes of their integration into a British imperium. The letters also suggest the particular appeal of a female king to Afrikaner women in a nascent women’s movement. Finally, the letters reveal the persistence of a notional ‘Dutch world’ that exceeded the bounds of the Netherlands’ formal empire in the early twentieth century.

in Crowns and colonies