08 Jun ‘Legal Self-fashioning in Colonial Indonesia: Human Rights in the Letters of Kartini’
By KITLV researcher Paul Bijl. Focusing on her writings, the article ‘Legal Self-fashioning in Colonial Indonesia: Human Rights in the Letters of Kartini’ shows how the Javanese woman Kartini (1879–1904) engaged with conceptions of “human rights” that were globally circulating in the early twentieth century, thereby further developing them by critiquing existing and imagining new conceptions of rights, law, and justice. The article and Kartini deal with colonial history and those who were colonized as a basis for re-theorizing the origins of the concept of human rights vis-à-vis European privilege. The central concept of this essay is that of “legal self-fashioning,” which the author develops to discuss how Kartini’s writings constructed an emphatic, willful inner life that made her part of what was at the time considered “humanity” and therefore “ready” for individual rights.