Primitivity, Animism and Psychoanalysis: European Visions of the Native ‘Soul’ in the Dutch East Indies, 1900–1949

  • Frances Gouda
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series book series (PMSTH)


As a small European democracy in Northern Europe, the Netherlands had achieved political and economic mastery of a large and lucrative colonial empire in Southeast Asia. During the decades before and after 1900, the Dutch empire in the Indonesian archipelago was “rounded off from Sabang to Merauke,” that is, from the Sabang harbor on the northwestern tip of Sumatra to the town of Merauke on the eastern-most border of Dutch-controlled territory on the island of (Papua) New Guinea. The Netherlands’ self-described role as gidsland (guiding force or guiding light) in colonial affairs — “a Cunning David amidst the Goliaths of Empire”1 — renders twentieth-century Dutch East Indies scholarship concerning ethnic cultural customs and conventions (adat), Islam and animist religions and the vagaries of the “native soul” particularly interesting. Because of a Dutch desire to project itself as international and a progressive pioneer in the proper management of European colonial power in Asia, its possession of the enormous Indonesian archipelago placated the “oversensitivity of a small nation with a heroic past” and substantiated its claim to be a mouse that could still roar.2


Psychological Aspect Indonesian Archipelago Psychic Life Primitive People Dutch Colonial 
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© Frances Gouda 2009

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  • Frances Gouda

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