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Open Access Performing Colonial Modernity

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Performing Colonial Modernity

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Fairs, Consumerism, and the Emergence of the Indonesian Middle Classes

Late-colonial Indonesia witnessed the proliferation of annual fairs and exhibitions that attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. This article argues that the Dutch colonizers organized these fairs as part of a larger hegemonic attempt to legitimize colonial authority. At the fairgrounds special exhibits demonstrated the benevolence of colonial governance, while modernity was displayed to emphasize the alleged cultural, technological, and scientific superiority of the West. Moreover, visitors were enticed to consume Western products and the lifestyles and world views associated with them. These fairs were mainly aimed at, and were constitutive of, the nascent Indonesian middle classes that became increasingly central to the maintenance of colonial rule. It is demonstrated that fairs were sites of interaction and discursive spaces where the middle classes not only bought into colonial discourse, but negotiated and challenged Western modernity to create a distinct, Indonesian middle-class lifestyle and culture.

Affiliations: 1: Colby College ahvander@colby.edu

10.1163/22134379-17304015
/content/journals/10.1163/22134379-17304015
dcterms_title,pub_keyword,dcterms_description,pub_author
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Late-colonial Indonesia witnessed the proliferation of annual fairs and exhibitions that attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors from all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. This article argues that the Dutch colonizers organized these fairs as part of a larger hegemonic attempt to legitimize colonial authority. At the fairgrounds special exhibits demonstrated the benevolence of colonial governance, while modernity was displayed to emphasize the alleged cultural, technological, and scientific superiority of the West. Moreover, visitors were enticed to consume Western products and the lifestyles and world views associated with them. These fairs were mainly aimed at, and were constitutive of, the nascent Indonesian middle classes that became increasingly central to the maintenance of colonial rule. It is demonstrated that fairs were sites of interaction and discursive spaces where the middle classes not only bought into colonial discourse, but negotiated and challenged Western modernity to create a distinct, Indonesian middle-class lifestyle and culture.

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/content/journals/10.1163/22134379-17304015
2017-01-01
2018-06-25

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