Minorities, Modernity and the Emerging Nation: Christians in Indonesia, a Biographical Approach

Article excerpt

Far Eastern Minorities, Modernity and the Emerging Nation: Christians in Indonesia, a Biographical Approach. By Gerry van Klinken. [Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Institut voor Taal-, Land en Volkenkunde, 199.] (Leiden: KITLV Press. 2003. Pp. v, 285. euro35.00.)

There is an extensive literature on Indonesian nationalism in the last decades of Dutch colonial rule. Most of the focus has been on what went on in Java-understandably so given the centrality of events on Java for the evolution of Indonesian nationalism. Almost all of the writing has also focused on various strands of the "secular" nationalists or on the Indonesian communist party or mainstream Islamic groups such as Sarekat Islam and Muhammadiyah. Minorities, Modernity and the Emerging Nation breaks new ground in its focus on the lives of five politically active Christians and their search for identity within the emerging Indonesian nationalism. Two were Javanese (Kasimo and Soegijapranata), two were Bataks from South Tapanuli (Amir Sjarifoeddin and Goenoeng Moelia), while the fifth (Ratu Langi) was from Minahasa. Two were Catholics and three were Protestants. All were acutely aware that they were adherents of a minority faith and that their Christian faith was in the eyes of the majority, tainted by being the faith of the colonizers. As intellectuals they were aware of the social, political, and economic ideas swirling among the newly emerging indigenous elites in the 1920's and 1930's. Like so many of their contemporaries they were searching for new identities-intellectual, spiritual, and institutional. In Van Klinken's terms they were searching for new forms of political community.

Through his biographical approach Gerry van Klinken has thrown new light on some of the big issues that confronted Indonesian intellectuals in the last decades of colonial rule and the chaotic decade of Japanese occupation and subsequent revolution. It is an innovative approach that not only develops a sensitive understanding of these five individuals and the communities of which they were part, but also provides a new insight into the evolution of political ideas in late colonial Indonesia. He has made excellent use of private papers in personal collections in Indonesia and The Netherlands and has also made extensive use of the Archives of the Archbishop of Batavia. …