Cannons, temples and palaces. Heritage tourism and memory culture in the context of the late imperial Dutch East Indies, 1908-1940

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This thesis focusses on the connections between heritage tourism, memory culture and imperialism in the Dutch East Indies between 1908 and 1940. In 1908 the Dutch imperial government supported the establishment of the Vereeniging Toeristenverkeer Batavia (VTV) as official propaganda bureau to promote international tourism to the Dutch East Indies. The VTV published many travel guides, brochures, flyers and other materials, especially about the main islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the Dutch East Indies were cultural heritage sites such as Western cannons and fortresses, pre-Islamic Hindu and Buddhist temples and early modern indigenous palaces. These heritage sites and the way they were represented by the VTV invoked various reactions from tourists concerning the social and political issues at play in the late colonial Dutch East Indies, such as the Indonesian ‘cultural awakening’, growing criticism on Dutch imperial policies and rivalry between European imperial nations. Using both travel literature of the VTV and a selection of individually published travel guidebooks by Dutch and international tourists, this thesis sheds light on heritage tourism and its social and political implications in the late colonial Dutch context. It looks at the selection and representation of different sorts of heritage sites in the Dutch East Indies, the way that tourist actors appropriated, discussed and negotiated these heritage sites, and how this (implicitly) contributed to social and political debates. This is done by using an interdisciplinary conceptual framework within the humanities. From heritage studies, the concept of lieux de mémoire and its postcolonial modification helps to understand the changing significance of imperial heritage sites. From tourism studies, John Urry’s concept of the tourist gaze and MacCannells concept of the second tourist gaze help to understand heritage tourism in the Dutch East Indies as a reciprocal process between the VTV and individual travellers. Eventually, it will be established that heritage tourism in the Dutch East Indies late colonial context was a constant process of negotiation between various actors and transnational discourses.
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