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Opening Session

Fourth TANAP Conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The rector of Universitas Gadjah Mada, Prof. Dr. Sofian Effendi, started his keynote adress to the fourth TANAP in Asia conference with the words: 'History contributes to current problems, no one can escape history?' Two weeks after the tsunami struck the island of Sumatra, the TANAP research group convened around a set of themes concerning the pre-colonial history of Asia in general, and the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago in particular. Prof. Effendi pointed at the fact that pre-colonial history has been ignored for many years in Indonesia, and that the national point of view had often distorted historical research. He expressed a warm welcome to the TANAP research group in Yogyakarta.

Dr. Maarten Mulder of the Royal Netherlands embassy in Jakarta remarked that the conference's main purpose was to strengthen the partnership that has cemented between institutions in the Netherlands and Indonesia. He also referred to the initiative to continue the partnership in the ENCOMPASS programme, as an important issue.

The Director-General of the Indonesian National Archives, drs. Djoko Utomo, reflected on the necessity to keep archival collections as a part of a civilization?s collective memory. 'We must remember the past so it is not repeated', he said. He expressed his desire to microfilm as many collections as possible, after making inventories and restorations.

Prof. Dr. Charles Jeurgens, professor of archivistics at Leiden University, stressed the need to train archivists historically so that they can provide researchers with the right insights on the historical sources and the context in which they were written. He pleaded to bridge the increasing divide between archivists and historians. His speech was on 'Facilitating archival research in the Netherlands' and it is worth to present a summary of the speech here:

Traditionally, archivists have concentrated mainly on making the archives accessible in accordance with the methods for organising and describing which they were taught. The Handleiding [Manual] by the Dutch archivists Muller, Feith and Fruin dating from 1898 and used worldwide, served as the guiding principle. Generations of historians grew up with the results of these rules for description: the classic inventory. Archiving was a craft in which the archivist was mainly led by the historic documents contained in the archive. Recently we have seen a shift in the thinking regarding archives. The archivist is becoming less geared to the documents themselves and more to the processes which form the basis for producing the documents which constitute the archive. This new approach leads to new research questions concerning the relationship between the actions of people or organisations and the thereby related forming of archives and the implications for the representation of reality.

Archivists should play an important role in the aim of the ENCOMPASS-programme to study Asian history with the help of the sources created by Dutch institutions during the VOC period and in colonial times. 'Mutual Heritage History' on the basis of these sources is possible. On condition, however, that the sources and particularly the genesis, in other word the context in which they were formed, are well known to us. Here lies an important task for archivists who are possibly going to be educated within the ENCOMPASS programme.

Within this framework, the manner of approach to the archives taken by Prof. Ann Laura Stolel, from the University of Michigan, is very interesting. The main question in her article on the colonial order of things as seen through its archival production was what insights about the colonial order might be gained from attending not only to the archival content, but also to its particular and sometimes peculiar form. She considers archiving as a process rather than to archives as objects. From that point of view it is in her words ?important to turn back to the documentation itself, what and who was being educated in the bureaucratic shuffle of rote formulas, generic plots and prescriptive asides that make up the bulk of a colonial archive?.

Stoler [*] introduces the concept of reading the archives 'against their grain'. This kind of reading would reveal the language of rule and the biases inherent in statistic perceptions. In her essay she poses some interesting questions about the understanding of archives. How can students of colonialism so quickly and confidently turn to readings 'against the grain', without a prior sense of their texture and granularity? How can we compare colonialisms without knowing the circuits of knowledge production in which they operated?'

* source: Ann Laura Stoler, 'Colonial Archives and the arts of governance: on the content in the form' in: C. Hamilton, V. Harris et all (eds) Refiguring the archive (Dordrecht/Boston/London) 82-101

According to Prof. Jeurgens, the archival contribution to the ENCOMPASS programme, should be a training program for archivists to know how to expose the relationships between the power structures within a society in a certain period, the standards and values which have originated from these, the institutions which have originated from within these frameworks and the archives which are built as reflection of the actions of people and organisations within this context. Eventually this should provide a more extensive and in particular a more sophisticated set of instruments for the historian with which he can approach the sources.

The historian Prof. Djoko Suryo, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts of Gadjah Mada University and one of the main pillars of the TANAP programme, stated that historical research in Indonesia has been mainly focussed on modern Indonesian national history. Early modern history (1600-1800) and 19th-century colonial history have been overlooked a great deal. These reasons for this were mainly of a practical nature: little research capacity; a language problem; lack of funding. Recently there have been a number of studies undertaken into the history of Islam in the early-modern period. Slowly historians start to realize that the early-modern period was the most important 'watershed' in Indonesian history. As such TANAP contributes positively to the development of historical science in Indonesia.

Prof. Dr. Leonard Blussé, the general research director of TANAP and co-initiator of ENCOMPASS, explained how historical research into Asian-European relations should go one step further then the studies of several 'Asianists' on Asian so-called 'autonomous history'. Several developments, like the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, were real global events with a global impact. In Southeast Asia the French Revolution led to regime changes and the creation of national borders, while the Industrious Revolution dramatically changed the East-West relations and the economic balances. Building a bridge for the divide between Asian and European (in particular Dutch, French and British) researchers will be necessary for the development of new research in the nearby future.


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