PSC Seminar Series

Event details

PSC Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 13 July 2021




Jacob Wray


Maxine McArthur

From the Colony to the Republic: Controlling Population Movement in Revolutionary Indonesia

During the Indonesian revolution (1945–1949), Java and Sumatra were divided. Two separate governments controlled different parts of these islands. One was the Dutch colonial government, which returned after the Second World War to reclaim what had for centuries been the most important colony in the Dutch empire. The other was the Indonesian republican government, which had come into existence only on 17 August 1945.

The division of Java and Sumatra coincided with some of the biggest population movements in modern Indonesian history. Among those who crossed (or tried to cross) the border between colony and republic were 1.5 million Indonesian refugees, 200,000 Indonesian prisoners of war and convicted criminals, 150,000 Japanese troops, and 100,000 Indonesian repatriates.

This presentation seeks to explain how and why both the Dutch colonial and Indonesian republican governments attempted to control this movement. Based on archival research conducted in Indonesia, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, and Singapore, it will argue that both governments came to view the movement of persons as either a threat to, or essential for, the survival of their respective states. This perception legitimated the introduction of extraordinary control mechanisms, many of which have had a potent afterlife in post-independence Indonesia.

Jacob Wray has been a PhD student in the Department of Political and Social Change since 2018. His main area of interest is Indonesian history.

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