nl en

Decolonizing orientalism, religion and heritage practices in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia. Local and global dimensions


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students


Exchange is crucial to understand the political dynamics of knowledge production and religion in Asia. In this research seminar, we will explore how, in relation to the question of cultural decolonization in twentieth century Indonesia. We focus on encounters and connections between scholarly and religious revivalist experts and their involvements in heritage practices in late colonial and postcolonial Indonesia: across the Japanese occupation and independence war, well into the 1970s, from local to global levels, and back. Moving away from institutional and top-down approaches to the study of knowledge production on Asia (Orientalism), we aim to gain insight into how and why scholarly and religious knowledge take shape, transform, and influence each other at grass root level. We do so by starting from the sites of heritage formation and religious learning in Indonesia, and explore histories of their makings, or by following scholarly biographies over time. We try to understand the impact of decolonization on the study and heritage formation of religion, and on identifications with religion. What is the impact of knowledge production on mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion? What is colonial about colonial knowledge production and what are the legacies in postcolonial times?; to what extent, how and why does knowledge decolonize or not? And what does ‘decolonization’ mean when we look at histories of scholarly and religious knowledge production and heritage formation at local (Indonesian), inter-Asian and global level?
In the first weeks we will read and discuss relevant literature and approaches in the field of postcolonial studies, orientalism and religion, asianism, and heritage politics. Students will then select topics for further research, taking either scholarly biographies, or sites transforming into heritage as case study.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  • 1) The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 2) The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  • 3) The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 4) The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  • 5) The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  • 6) The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  • 7) The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  • 8) The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  • 9) The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  • 10) (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 11) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly in the specialisation Archival Studies on archiving in a colonial context; insight into the significance of archiving processes for the way in which a society deals with its documentation heritage in general and its historical practice in particular; disclosure, including digital disclosure, of archives as part of the broader heritage sector.

  • 12) Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus in the specialisation Archival Studies on theoretical foundations of archivistics; assessment and selection of archives.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

  • 13) Thorough understanding of how these various organisational principles are related to the objectives and audiences of those materials and the sort and tone of information they contain.

  • 14) The ability to work with a broad and mobile notion of archives and heritage; to analyse, compare and relate archives at multiple locations; and to recognize, question, understand the role of multiple power relations and changing hierarchies, in the makings and uses of sites of heritage including archives.

  • 15) to acquire new critical insight into alternative archival formations and heritage practices, developing in colonial and postcolonial situations, and into their uses for historical research.

  • 16) to develop critical awareness of the problems and multi-sitedness of colonial and postcolonial history, and, thus, of the legacies of colonial histories in present-day societies – worldwide.

  • 17) (ResMA only): The ability to set up and carry out original research that raises new questions, pioneers new approaches and/or points to new directions for future research.


The timetable is available on the MA History website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students have to attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, he is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, he will be excluded from the seminar.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Seminar attendance: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature: 50 hours

  • Assignment(s), preparation for lectures and presentations: 27 hours

  • Research and writing paper: 177 hours

Assessment method




Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Exam review

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting powerpoint presentations and literature

  • general communication between lecturer and students

Reading list

Literature will be announced closer to the start of the course and/or during classes.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in [English] and [Dutch]


M. Bloembergen