Twentieth-century European states dominated colonized societies through repression but also attempted to legitimate their presence through participation. Programs of reform that offered local elites increased access to power proved controversial among European communities. At the same time, the privileges of citizenship for Europeans in the colonies remained more restrictive than in Europe. The unevenness of access to participation produced—as well as resulted from—tensions that challenged state legitimation efforts. The papers presented in “Tensions of the Colonial State: Legitimation, Citizenship, and Participation in Dutch and French Southeast Asia,” focus on such tensions through studies of women’s politics, the impact of academic thinkers on political strategy, and the relation of social class to reform projects. The papers highlight the circulation of ideas between European countries and their colonized regions and outline the ways in which networks within colonial society acted in relation to colonial states’ denial of citizenship, quest for cooperation, and openings to participation in administrative power.
In the Dutch East Indies, women from 1919-1941 formed networks to fight for voting rights. In her paper, Liberty Sproat analyzes why the citizenship rights extended to Dutch women in the Netherlands did not include the same rights for women in the Dutch East Indies. She argues that because of this difference, Dutch women in the Dutch East Indies, who lacked the right to vote, found other methods of political participation that allowed them to maintain feelings of Dutch citizenship within their colonial communities. Her paper identifies private behaviors women used to “perform citizenship” and argues that while women fought for suffrage, they nevertheless utilized economic, social, and cultural tools that complemented their struggle to win the vote.
Matthew Schauer’s paper also explores Dutch-controlled Indonesia and examines the networks created between the Netherlands and its colonies within educational institutions. In particular, his paper identifies the “Ethical Policies” instituted in the Netherlands Indies between 1910 and 1930. This “Ethical Imperialism” pushed towards the modernization of the Indies through increases in areas such as education and public health. His paper focuses on the conflicts between the colonial government and “ Ethicist” professors at the University of Leiden. The essay also examines the varying rationales for the disparity in educational opportunities and social advancement between Indonesians living in urban and rural settings. Lastly, it examines the growth of Dutch Structuralist colonial anthropology at the University of Leiden and its influence on informing colonial policies in the Dutch East Indies.
Paul Sager’s paper also addresses colonial reform efforts, identifying the role of “indigenization” (the progressive replacement of European personnel by “native” personnel in the colonial administration) in the “association policy” that dominated French colonial strategy from 1900 to 1930. Focusing on the early years of association policy in French Indochina, his paper examines its close connection to colonial questions of social class and government employment and explores how tensions over association theory resulted in institutional ambivalence over indigenization that slowed down its implementation.