(P75) Unpacking the Asian Library. Histories of knowledge exchange and collecting from Asia to the West across decolonization
Wed 09:00-10:30 K14 | 1.07
- Marieke Bloembergen KITLV- Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
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Collecting Histories and Creating a New Colonial Order: The Knowledge Politics of Regime Change in the early 19th-Century Malay World
Keng We Koh Nanyang Technological University
The period between 1770s and the 1850s/1860s saw the creation of new colonial regimes in the Malay world and other parts of archipelagic Southeast Asia. While the historiography of the Anglo-Dutch rivalry has often focused on the political and diplomatic disputes and maneuverings in the region, and in the colonial metropoles, they parallel important processes in history of collecting and knowledge-formation on the region. This paper examines the dynamics of these processes in the region, the interplay between politics and knowledge in the histories of colonial expansion and change, as well as the agencies involved. These dynamics were also key in the creation and expansion of library collections, new scientific societies and networks, and the print industry on the region, both in Southeast Asia and the colonial metropole in Europe.
Documents from Timor in Portugal: colonial collecting and a historiographic empire
Ricardo Roque University of Lisbon
During the second half of the nineteenth century, Portuguese colonial officers in East Timor collected a series of old Portuguese-language manuscripts in possession of Timorese rulers, and sent them to libraries and archives in Lisbon, Portugal. The collected “documents” originated in ‘archives’ held by Timorese royal and noble lineages in the so-called reinos (kingdoms). This paper offers a glimpse of ongoing research work on these practices of collecting and archiving. Drawing on the case of a set of documents sent to Lisbon circa 1880, I ask how and why the officers obtained these manuscripts, and how and why they circulated the documents to Portugal. I suggest this collecting activity was part of a “historiographic modality” of colonial knowledge concerned with the incorporation of ancient manuscripts in indigenous possession with a view to rule thereinos, whilst at the same time assert a wider historiographic form of Portuguese imperial sovereignty
Saintly Materials from the Islamic East
Teren Sevea University of Harvard
This paper introduces a series of texts related to Islamic saints and shrines in the modern Malay world and Java, focussing on materials that continue to be produced to commemorate miracle workers ad miracle working shrines (keramat). I elaborate on how these materials have been produced and preserved by the descendants of saints, Sufi elders and hagiographers from organised networks. Histories of the eastern Indian Ocean’s saints continue to be told and retold regularly in printed materials, for instance, that place these saints and their shrines in oceanic networks, connecting them to parts of the western Islamic world. The authors of these materials suggest that the eastern Indian Ocean’s saints were key constituents of neat networks that existed in the past and present. The data of these texts, however, points us in a different direction, inviting us to consider how cities of the eastern Indian Ocean world were (and remain) ‘junction boxes’ where networks messily intersected and new networks constantly emerged.
The Book of Reincaration: Dead and Ghost in J.L. Moens’ Javanese Manuscripts Collections
Salfia Rahmawati Universitas Indonesia
Sri Margana University of Leiden
J.L. Moens is known as collector of classical manuscripts with more that 250 pieces of Javanese manuscripts which are under his ownership. They were collected between 1920-1940 when he was a colonial official in Java. Now those manuscript are kept in three separate institutions in Indonesia and the Netherlands, namely The Sonobudoyo Library of Yogyakarta, The Library of Universitas Indonesia in Jakarta and the Universiteit Bibliotheek in Leiden. Growing interest in things Javanese since the early 19th century leads to the development of a canon and popular stories of wayang, folklores, and other forms of written culture. There are at least five reason on why this collection matters: (1) in its quantity, it contains of 254 manuscripts ranging from 170 to 1.570 pages each produced in certain period at the same time; (2) raffish polychrome illustrations and stories in these collection are distinct from other Javanese illustrative manuscripts; (3) unusual production site was in rural areas, in distance from the palace (Keraton) as centre of knowledge-based cultural production; (4) these were written by dalang (puppeteer) who were usually skilled in oral story-telling on puppet live performance, not trained in writing; (5) the production of these collection were result of encouragement from Dutch scholars and missionaries in that era.
This paper discusses the collection in general to answer: How was Yogyakarta suburb culture in the early 20th century represented in the Moens’ collection? How does the collection reflect alternative patronage on wayang manuscript production? How does variation in the collection indicate cultural dialogue among periphery, courtship, and foreign agencies? In order to get deeper glimpses on the Moens’s collections, a special reference will be addressed to the Serat Panitisan (The Book of Reincarnation) other related topic about one of the popular folklores known in Javanese society about life after dead.
As a follow-up to earlier workshops held in 2019, and building on a global, multi-sited academic and¨librarian’s research network expanding in their wake, this double panel focuses on the collecting histories, and knowledge networks in Asia, and between Asia and the West, and on the (epistemic) violence and shifting power relations they reflect, that helped shaping the so-called ‘Asian Library’ worldwide across decolonization. We emphatically scrutinize these histories from an Asia- and/or
South-centred perspective. While the ‘treasures’ kept in Asian libraries worldwide rank as expressions of ‘enlightened’ collecting, and as keys to understanding the wider world, they also entail colonial violence, and networks of collecting based in the South, and thus multiple forms of knowledge, agency, exchange and production ‘outside’ the text we get access to when we enter these libraries. The question is how, why so, and for whom (not)? This question has become all the more topical in the light of the fierce public debates reviving in the past five years on decolonizing museums and academic institutes, on ‘repatriation’ (or ‘restitutions’) of ‘colonial’ artefacts (whether looted or acquired in structural unequal relations), also leading to initiatives to conduct and expand provenance research to this aim. Partly engaging with this debate, this panel also provides insight into how questions of ‘repatriation’ (implying a clear ‘Patria’ or original owner) also can simplify the complex, multi-layered practices and forms of knowledge exchange that shaped the content of Asian Libraries.
With books, manuscripts and visual material therefore not only considered for their content, but primarily as ‘objects’, this panel aims, for the nineteenth and twentieth century, to gain insight in the ‘Asian’ agency behind the makings of these collections. For this we will explore forms of knowledge and knowledge exchange at the levels of production, collecting, translation, travelling, inventorizing and storing, in the context of colonial relationships, decolonization, and inter-colonial, transnational, and inter-Asian networks.