Savu: History and Oral Tradition on an Island of Indonesia

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by Geneviève Duggan and Hans Hägerdal

This book demonstrates the possibilities of writing history based on bridging traditional archival historical evidence with evidence from oral sources and anthropological work, especially relevant for Austronesian societies where genealogical information is preserved in many ways.

The book focuses on the historical trajectories of Savu, an island in the Nusa Tenggara Timur province, eastern Indonesia. While Savu is a relatively small island, aspects of its society, as well as this study's blend of anthropology and historical method, make this book of fundamental relevance to the ongoing comparative examination of Austronesian-speaking populations from Madagascar to Hawaii and from Taiwan to Timor.

This book brings together Duggan's detailed understanding of Savunese society and geneaologies with Hägerdal's deep knowledge of the Dutch and Portuguese archives to understand the overlap between these perspectives on Savu's past.

The text examines the pre-colonial period up to the 16th century, and then examines how early-colonial encounters with the Portuguese and Dutch (VOC) changed systems of governance. In the 19th century the Savunese embarked on minor colonial enterprises in Timor and Sumba, and were still largely autonomous vis-à-vis the colonial state. Protestant missionaries gained foothold after 1870, though Christianization was a slow process. Colonial rule via a Dutch-appointed raja was introduced in the early 20th century. The text follows the fate of Savu during the struggle for independence and the postcolonial era, discussing the dilemmas of modernization and the resilience of a unique local culture.

"... an impressive detailed study of Savu society and history from early times to the present." - Leonard Y. Andaya, University of Hawaii

“A work of meticulous fieldwork and extended archival scholarship—a fusion of anthropological and historical research…this small island society provides a historical case study of fundamental relevance to the ongoing examination of the Austronesian-speaking populations arrayed across more than half the world…”  - James J. Fox, The Australian National University

“It will, I believe, be of fundamental importance for all future studies of the history and ethnography of the region.” - Bengt af Klintberg, Journal of Folklore Research

Geneviève Duggan is an anthropologist who has, over two the last two decades, studied the religion, culture, material culture and history of Savu society.

Hans Hägerdal is a historian, presently working at Linnaeus University, who mainly conducts research on early Southeast Asian history.

Publication Year: 2018
720 pages, 229mm x 152mm 
26 colour images, 26 b/w images
52 b/w figures, 8 b/w maps
ISBN: 978-981-4722-75-9

NUS Press