Racial Science and Human Diversity in Colonial Indonesia is a timely book. Fenneke Sysling looks at the production of a discourse on race in the colonial Netherlands Indies that was at once particularly Dutch and pan-European (in its origins and execution). That is not an easy synthesis to achieve, but Sysling does achieve this union of purpose in showing the complicated origins of a Dutch colonial narrative on race and racial origins that was generated out of the complex milieu of the Indonesian archipelago. At this time—the late nineteenth into the early twentieth centuries—the West was fascinated, some might say even obsessed, with the genesis of racial categories in looking at subjugated “natives” in various parts of the world. Sysling’s contribution is to show how one of the most complicated places on the planet in terms of ethnicity and ethnic categories entered...

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