Colonial Spectacles: The Netherlands and the Dutch East Indies at the World Exhibitions, 1880-1931

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By Marieke Bloembergen, Translated by Beverley Jackson

Dutch colonial presentations at the world exhibitions in the period 1880-1931 served to legitimise the Dutch imperialist project and highlight the problem of Dutch identity and The Netherlands' place in the world.

At these exhibitions, The Netherlands showed off its colonies by erecting models of schools, sugar-factories, bridges and railways exhibits were meant to give proof of the good works of modern colonial administration and enterprise. Alongside these displays, there were exhibits illustrating the lifestyle and culture of the indigenous people, including not only displays of ethnographic objects but also life-size temples and villages inhabited by authentic Javanese and Sumatrans brought to Europe specifically for these expositions. Their presence took the visitor into an "Other" world that provided an "immediacy" for visitors to the exhibition.

While these colonial spectacles helped legitimise the Dutch imperialist project, they also provided lenses for understanding the colonial world as it was constructed according to the prevailing evolutionist worldview at the time.

Publication Year: 2006
480 pages, 229mm x 152mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-330-5, Hardback

NUS Press