Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/15659
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Type: Journal article
Title: Sugar, technology, and colonial encounters: refashioning the industry in the Netherlands Indies, 1800-1942
Author: Knight, G.
Citation: Journal of Historical Sociology, 1999; 12(3):218-250
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Issue Date: 1999
ISSN: 0952-1909
1467-6443
Statement of
Responsibility: 
Roger Knight
Abstract: The argument begins with the widely accepted proposition that science and technology had a crucial part to play in the legitimisation of Western colonialisms in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It then sets out to examine the implications of this in terms of the interaction of science, technology and the commodity production of cane sugar in Asia’s largest and best-known sugar colony — the Netherlands Indies (Indonesian) island of Java. It demonstrates that cane sugar in Java was indeed the site of technological revolution and of a scientific approach to production which Western contemporaries saw as asserting their superiority over, and justifying their domination of, the East. From a broadly postcolonial perspective, the colonial binaries inherent in discourse of this kind were a good deal more ambiguous than its contemporary practitioners were inclined to allow. Indeed, a discourse which seems otherwise to have been Manichaean in the severity of its social distinctions, was significantly subverted by the collateral existence of fissures within the apparent monolith of an industrial structure based on Western technology and science. That structure was not self-sustaining, and although it was possible to marginalise the once-dominant Asian element in the industry, Java sugar nonetheless had to accommodate within its managerial and technical structure large numbers of people of part-European, part-Asian ethnic background. It did this by accepting a colonial construction of the European which was particular to Java, and which embraced large numbers of Eurasians as well as Dutch expatriates. The language of difference, inherent in the notion of a Manichaean divide, rested, in short, on a kind of discursive counterfeit, which was an indispensable condition for the persistence of scientific and technological production.
Rights: © Blackwell Publishers Ltd 1999
RMID: 0030003338
DOI: 10.1111/1467-6443.00090
Appears in Collections:History publications

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