Savu: History and Oral Tradition on an Island of Indonesia

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by Geneviève Duggan and Hans Hägerdal

The book focuses on the historical trajectories of Savu, an island in the Nusa Tenggara Timur province, eastern Indonesia. It blends historical and anthropological methods, using oral tradition, ethnographic observations, and archival collections. While Savu is a relatively small island, it has gained a wider regional importance.

The text discusses the pre-colonial period up to the 16th century, based on the unusually strong and detailed genealogical tradition, and explains how the various domains emerged on the island. Next it is shown how the early-colonial encounters with the Portuguese and Dutch (VOC) changed the system of governance, how the colonial suzerains functioned as mediators, and how the Savunese provided decisive military support for the Dutch sphere in the Timor region. 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 the 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

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
Casebound
ISBN: 978-981-4722-75-9

NUS Press