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From Brown Dutchmen to Indo-Americans: Changing Identity of the Dutch-Indonesian (Indo) Diaspora in America

  • Azlan TajuddinEmail author
  • Jamie Stern
Article

Abstract

Indos are people of mixed Dutch-Indonesian descent, whose history can be traced to the Netherlands’ 300-year colonization of Indonesia (Dutch East Indies). As an “in-between” people, Indos were accorded the privileges of a Dutch colonial class situated above the native Indonesians, but placed below Europeans in terms of status. Despite their Dutch citizenship, the Indos were often marginalized due to their distinctly hybridized culture and “mixed” physical appearance. During the Japanese occupation of the East Indies, however, the Indos’ political-historical association with the Dutch subjected many among them to numerous persecutions. Similarly, this “Dutch” identity would also place the Indos on the opposite side of the Indonesian independence struggle, creating their massive exodus to the Netherlands after the Second World War. In Holland, Indos were treated more like foreigners than compatriots and often referred to as “Brown Dutchmen.” This drove many Indos toward further migration across the globe, including the USA. In America, first-generation Indos were reluctant to share their traumatic history and instead encouraged their young ones to fully embrace “Americanhood.” Despite this, many among the younger generation have begun to show a collective interest in reconnecting with their Indo heritage. Without an existing homeland however, these “activists” have resorted to intense cultural imagining as a way to locate and define their place as Indo-Americans. Using a multi-theoretical approach, this article critically analyzes the historical journey of the Indo-American diaspora and the shifting identities the group has assumed as they transitioned from one political economic environment to another.

Keywords

Dutch-Indonesians (Indos) Indo-Americans Cultural identity Diaspora Race and ethnicity Trauma Colonialism 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyLa Roche CollegePittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Research, Development, and AdministrationThe Indo Project IncBostonUSA

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