Transnational Colonial Surveillance and Dutch Foreign Consulates during the Interwar Period

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 9:10 AM
Conference Room D (Sheraton New York)
Kris Alexanderson, University of the Pacific

After being caught unawares by anti-colonial violence in Java and Sumatra during the Communist uprisings of 1926-27, the Dutch colonial administration in the Netherlands East Indies scrambled to make sense of the reasons behind and persons responsible for the revolts. Both the colonial administration in Batavia and the Dutch Consulate in Jeddah suspected “Mecca would be a meeting place for fleeing communists from the Netherlands East Indies and that via this place a new destructive movement would be built up.” Due to the Dutch assumption of its being a haven for political agitators who had fled the Netherlands East Indies, Mecca became a major site of surveillance for the Dutch colonial administration during the late 1920’s and 30’s. 

The Dutch Consulate in Jeddah worked together with the Dutch administration in Batavia to monitor and gather information on the community of Indonesians living in Mecca known as the Djawa-kolonie or Jawi (People of Java).  Due to the fact that non-Muslim Europeans were not allowed to enter Mecca, the colonial government relied on Indonesian consular staff members to maintain close relations with the Indonesian community in Mecca and to track the movements of students in Cairo. The Consulate was also on the look out for subversive written materials and thinkers who they believed encouraged pan-Islamism in the fight for Indonesian independence. 

This paper illustrates the transnational scope of Dutch empire and colonial surveillance during the 1920’s and 30’s and investigates sites of policing beyond the geographic realm of the Netherlands East Indies. Dutch Consulates were used as political tools to police Indonesians around the globe.  By repositioning our viewpoint of the geographic complexities of modern colonial surveillance, historians can gain a more complex picture of the realities of European imperialism during the early-twentieth century.

<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation