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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.

The Dutch colonial world during Queen Wilhelmina’s reign, 1898–1948

were made in imperial settings. Monarchy, photography and the Netherlands East Indies Queen Wilhelmina was by no means alone in never personally touring her colonies. Queen Victoria also preferred to stay at home. Nevertheless, royal tours were increasingly common in these queens’ lifetimes: the Belgian Prince (later King) Albert travelled to Congo in 1909; the Italian King Vittorio Emanuele III visited Somalia in 1934 and Libya in 1938; no fewer than eleven British royals toured Ceylon, from the 1860s to 1947

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she had received from the people of the Netherlands East Indies: a costly bracelet made from South African diamonds set in the pattern of a crown flanked by two garuda birds. 6 Perhaps the bracelet and the jaunty young queen reminded Van Baal of better times. For in 1955 Dutch New Guinea was the last remaining outpost of the Netherlands’ former empire in Asia, which had reached its modern zenith during Wilhelmina's reign, but was formally dissolved within a year of her heir

in Photographic subjects
Unity in diversity at royal celebrations

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. 3 In the Netherlands East Indies, such photographs attest to the labour migrations encouraged or coerced by Dutch colonial agriculture and industry. They depict the mixed and mobile Indonesian communities whose cultural forms were given a space for display at festivals for

in Photographic subjects
Indonesian perceptions of power relationships with the Dutch

. Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, 300-plus ethnic groups, sultanates and statelets merged piecemeal into a single political entity through actions of the Dutch over three centuries. Today’s Republic of Indonesia is the successor state to the colony known as the Netherlands East Indies and has the same boundaries. Older history books narrated Indonesian history as a series of broken sequences. Opening chapters began

in Crowns and colonies
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Portraits of the monarch in colonial ritual

counterparts in the British empire, the men appointed as governors-general of the Netherlands East Indies often had a class-based affinity with the Dutch crown. 13 Of the ten men who served during Wilhelmina's reign, half were aristocrats themselves, mostly jonkheeren (noblemen) and one graaf (count). 14 Governors-general were answerable to the Dutch parliament through the Minister for the Colonies in The Hague. But in the Indies, much like the viceroys of British crown

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armed services, or military commanders in bitter dispute with civil administrators. In the Netherlands East Indies by the 1920s, tension between the army and navy was such that the former was in constant fear that it might be reduced to a mere gendarmerie. The RAF, desperate to maintain its autonomy, frequently fell foul of the military in the 1920s as it argued its case for a role in the Middle East and

in Guardians of empire
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Mass photography, monarchy and the making of colonial subjects

et al., Photographs of the Netherlands East Indies at the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam: KIT Publishers, 2012); and the Dutch East Indies collection at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, outlined in S. Protschky, ‘Personal albums from early twentieth-century Indonesia’, in G. Newton (ed.), Garden of the East: Photography in Indonesia 1850s–1940s (Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 2014), pp. 48–55. On the development of photography in the Netherlands, see F. Bool et al. (eds), Dutch Eyes: A Critical History of Photography in the Netherlands

in Photographic subjects
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The embassy of Sultan Alauddin of Aceh to the Netherlands, 1601– 1603

Indonesian archipelago. It was incorporated into the Netherlands East Indies in 1903 and has been a province of Indonesia since its declaration of independence from the Netherlands in 1945. 2 The prestigious title Sayyid al-Mukammal states the sultan’s claim to being of the same tribe as Muhammad

in Royals on tour
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Royal Indonesian visits to the Dutch court in the early twentieth century

the baser human passions, and was thus a favoured entertainment for Javanese royalty. 2 At celebrations for the Dutch monarchy in the Netherlands East Indies (colonial Indonesia), such courtly dances were frequent at the gala performances sponsored by Dutch officials and Javanese aristocrats during the festivities they were obliged to host. 3 However, the December 1936 performance was the first of its kind at a Dutch court

in Royals on tour