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The Discourse On Free Labor And The Forced Cultivation System: The Contradictory Consequences Of The Abolition Of The Slave Trade In Colonial Java, 1811-1870

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Chapter Summary

This chapter comments briefly some of the literature on indentured labor, and states the need for a new approach. The history of indentured labor in the production of colonial commodities in several regions of Asia and the Pacific during the 19th and early 20th centuries is fairly well known. For all its apparent utility and wide currency, there is however good reasons for treating the Grand Narrative of Indenture as problematic. Entanglement and constraint are the central concepts for a more comprehensive and inclusive interpretation than the one offered by the Grand Narrative. Rubber and sugar production in the Dutch East Indies, from the 1840s through to the 1930s, have often been viewed, if not as polar opposites, then certainly as involving strikingly different forms of labor and labor processes – cryptically summarized, sugar with peasants and rubber with coolies subject to the penal sanction.

Keywords:Asia; Dutch East Indies; grand narrative; indentured labor



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