Storytelling brings into vivid focus the emotions and affects that different classes and races of people experienced in the imperial Dutch Indies island worlds. The storyteller explored in this article is Maria Dermoût (1888–1962), a mixed-race Dutch woman (Indo) who was born and raised on Java in the Dutch East Indies and who spent more than thirty years there. This article argues that Dermoût is a key writer for understanding affective economies, because she devotes significant time and effort in her fiction to fleshing out Native characters, something that few writers of her time did. The novella Toetie, one of Dermoût’s last works, uncovers Indies and Dutch attitudes toward race and color, moving her work from the genre of Indies Letters, or Dutch colonial literature, to that of postcolonial critique, with an exploration of forms of servitude, affect, and the social relations of her time.
Racial Slurs and Whispers in Situated Testimonies of Dutch Imperial Fiction
Laurie J. Sears is a Walker Family Endowed Professor Emeritus in the University of Washington History Department, where she has taught critical historiographies, feminist methodologies, and Indonesian histories. Her publications include Shadows of Empire: Colonial Discourse and Javanese Tales (1996), and she is the editor of Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia (1996) and Knowing Southeast Asian Subjects (2007). Her most recent book, Situated Testimonies: Dread and Enchantment in an Indonesian Literary Archive (2013), looks at psychoanalysis as a transnational literary discourse that moved between the Netherlands and the Dutch Indies to postcolonial Indonesia.
Laurie J. Sears; Racial Slurs and Whispers in Situated Testimonies of Dutch Imperial Fiction. positions 1 February 2021; 29 (1): 67–91. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8722784
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