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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.

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Lights, camera and … ‘Ethical’ rule!

the Raj. In the process, ‘[t]he splendid anachronism of [the British monarchy's] pageantry at the time of George V's Silver Jubilee and George VI's coronation was deliberately projected as a powerful and reassuring antidote to the high-tech parades and search-light rallies in Mussolini's Italy, Stalin's Red Square and Hitler's Nuremberg’. 6 In the Netherlands East Indies, that tradition was only one of the values that monarchy promoted in Asian colonies. Queen Wilhelmina was explicitly connected with modernity in

in Photographic subjects
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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

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

Between 31 August and 6 September 1923, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands marked her silver jubilee, the 25th anniversary of her inauguration. The week-long festivities united disparate populations across the globe, not just in the Netherlands but throughout its empire, which included Suriname and the West Indies in the Atlantic realm, and the East Indies in South-east Asia. The milestone also resonated across the Indian Ocean in places that had not been part of the Dutch colonial world for over a century, including Cape Town in southern

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
Imperialism and popular culture in the Netherlands, 1870–1960

possessions in the East and West Indies, the Cape Colony had not been given back by the British, who occupied the Dutch overseas territories during the Napoleonic Wars. In the six decades or so that followed the official handover in 1814, the public in the Netherlands hardly paid attention to the Dutch-speaking descendants of the East India Company colonists who by then lived in a colony where English was the official

in European empires and the people
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Mass photography, monarchy and the making of colonial subjects

were celebrated in the Netherlands and its colonies, the East Indies, West Indies, Suriname, as well as places where Dutch imperial claims were located in a more distant past, such as South Africa. 4 Photographs taken by ordinary spectators and participants at royal celebrations became a standard feature of East Indies family albums from about 1923, the year of Queen Wilhelmina's silver jubilee, until the end of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia (excepting the significant interlude of the Japanese occupation from 1942

in Photographic subjects
Suriname and the Netherlands, 1863– 1890

return to Europe.16 When the disease did reappear in the Netherlands, it did not originate from someone from the West Indies, but rather from the other side of the globe in the Dutch East Indies. Leprosy’s ‘return’ was first observed in Bronbeek, situated in the eastern Netherlands. Here in 1863, a home for invalid soldiers from the Dutch East Indies’ armed forces was opened on a royal estate. From an early start, there were soldiers with signs of leprosy living in Bronbeek. However, although these soldiers slept in communal bedrooms with other soldiers, no one was

in Leprosy and colonialism
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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

in Photographic subjects