The ‘Awkward’ History of European Civilian Internees under Japanese and Indonesian Republican Administrations, 1942 – 1947

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Date(s) - 29/02/2012
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Japanese Studies Centre Auditorium, Building 54 (next to the bus loop), Monash University, Clayton Campus


Monash Asia Seminars – CSEAS Seminar Series

Dr Joost Cote, School Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University

The Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia and its aftermath may have been the beginning of the end of European imperialism in Asia but in Indonesian national history the ‘real war’ commenced on 17 August 1945 (Dirlik 2001). Caught up in that war were between 42,000 and 46,000 European civilians, a majority of whom were of part Indonesian descent. Some had previously been interned during the Japanese administration but a majority appear to have spent those years as ‘buitenkampers’ (D=outside the camps), that is, not previously interned during1942 – 45. They found themselves in the territories controlled by the Indonesian Republic imprisoned in a variety of locations, often temporary and small, some that had previously been Japanese internment camps.

Drawing on recent Dutch publications, this presentation is not about war but summarises the historical and statistical ‘facts’ to highlight the experience of these European civilians under Japanese and Indonesian Republican administrations. The paper draws attention to the serial process of racial categorisation – colonial, Japanese, Indonesian and subsequently, Dutch, Australian and American – to which these people of mixed descent were subjected. Theirs therefore represents an ‘awkward’ history – and ‘difficult heritage’ (Logan and Reeves, 2009) – that has been largely absent from Indonesian and Anglophone history and until recently also from Dutch history of this period.