Being ‘European’ in Colonial Indonesia. Collectors and Collections between Yogyakarta, Berlin, Dresden and Vienna in the Late Nineteenth Century


  • Caroline Drieënhuizen



In this article, I use the trajectories and meanings of objects in the collections of two Eurasian men, George Lodewijk (‘Louis’) Weijnschenk (1847-1919) and Jacob Anthonie Dieduksman (1832-1901), to illustrate how juridically registered ‘Europeans’ in the Dutch colony of Indonesia used objects to negotiate their identities, their ‘Europeanness’ and hence their social status in the late nineteenth century. In response to the general increased demand to be socially and culturally European in colonial Indonesia, these men took advantage of both the growing enthusiasm among museums throughout Europe to obtain ethnographic artifacts, and of the European practice of collecting as a bourgeois pastime, to demonstrate their ‘Europeanness’. By collecting and donating objects to European museums, they were able to widen their social networks, gain economic capital and perform their belonging to Europe, their unique knowledge and their cultural enterprises. These two micro-histories show the interconnectedness of countries, people and identities across European empires in both Asia and Europe in which demands and opportunities interacted, and reveal how colonial knowledge, violence, hierarchies and indigenous agency were an integral part of European history, culture and museum collections.

In dit artikel volg ik de reizen en betekenissen van objecten uit de collecties van de Euraziatische George Lodewijk (‘Louis’) Weijnschenk (1847-1919) en Jacob Anthonie Dieduksman (1832-1901). Het artikel maakt duidelijk hoe deze ‘Europeanen’ in juridische zin in laat negentiende-eeuws koloniaal Indonesië objecten konden gebruiken om hun identiteit vorm te geven, hun ‘Europees-zijn’ aan te tonen en daarmee hun sociale status te vergroten. Als reactie op de toenemende behoefte in de kolonie om een sociale en culturele ‘Europese’ identiteit kenbaar te maken, maakten deze twee mannen gebruik van de groeiende vraag van Europese musea naar etnografische objecten, en van de burgerlijke praktijk om objecten te verzamelen, om zo hun ‘Europeesheid’ aan te tonen. De twee case studies tonen aan hoezeer verschillende kolonies, landen, mensen en identiteiten in een dynamisch spel van vraag en aanbod nauw met elkaar verbonden waren en hoe koloniale kennis, geweld, hiërarchieën en lokale agency integraal onderdeel waren van de Europese geschiedenis, cultuur en museumcollecties.


This article is part of the special issue ‘The Dutch Empire and Europe. Demands and Opportunities’.

Dit artikel maakt deel uit van het themanummer ‘The Dutch Empire and Europe. Demands and Opportunities’.


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Author Biography

Caroline Drieënhuizen

Caroline Drieënhuizen (1983) is assistant professor of Cultural History at the Faculty of Law and Humanities, Open University of the Netherlands. She is presently working on transnational and transimperial networks of collectors of material culture in colonial Indonesia, the European cultural dimension of colonialism and Indonesia’s decolonisation in both Indonesia, the Netherlands and Europe from a museological and material object-driven approach.

Recent publications include ‘Mirrors of Time and Agents of Action Indonesia’s Claimed Cultural Objects and Decolonisation, 1947-1978’, BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review 133 (2) (2018) 79-90 bmgn-lchr.10552; ‘Social Careers Across Imperial Spaces: an Empire family in the Dutch-British world, 1811-1933’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 44 (2016) 397-422 and ‘Objects, Nostalgia and the Dutch Colonial Elite in Times of Transition, ca. 1900-1970’, Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde/Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia 170 (2014) 504-529.




How to Cite

Drieënhuizen, C. (2019). Being ‘European’ in Colonial Indonesia. Collectors and Collections between Yogyakarta, Berlin, Dresden and Vienna in the Late Nineteenth Century. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 134(3), 21–46.