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 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’.
In the NetherlandsEastIndies, that tradition was only one of the values that monarchy promoted in Asian colonies. Queen Wilhelmina was explicitly connected with modernity in
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 NetherlandsEastIndies (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
The Dutch colonial world during Queen Wilhelmina’s reign,
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 EastIndies 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
she had received from the people of the NetherlandsEastIndies: a costly bracelet made from South African diamonds set in the pattern of a crown flanked by two garuda birds.
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
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.
In the NetherlandsEastIndies, 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
This volume’s title, Monarchies and Decolonisation in Asia , appears to suggest a linear progression in the histories of colonies. Yet monarchies existed in Asia prior to colonial rule, and in many places they continued to exist under colonialism. Decolonisation in Indonesia, for instance, has proved to be a rejection of both indigenous and colonial forms of rule. The colony known as the NetherlandsEastIndies ended up as the Republic of Indonesia in 1945, 1 and yet it is worth noting that the larger, colonial-era political organisations of the 1930s
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
Mass photography, monarchy and the making of colonial subjects
were celebrated in the Netherlands and its colonies, the EastIndies, West Indies, Suriname, as well as places where Dutch imperial claims were located in a more distant past, such as South Africa.
Photographs taken by ordinary spectators and participants at royal celebrations became a standard feature of EastIndies 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
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 EastIndies.
Leprosy’s ‘return’ was first observed in Bronbeek, situated in the
eastern Netherlands. Here in 1863, a home for invalid soldiers from the
Dutch EastIndies’ 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