Dependence on green gold

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Selayar, an island off the coast of Southwest Sulawesi and belonging to the Makassarese-Buginese realm, is dry and rocky, with a fragile subsistence economy. Yet in the late colonial period its economy prospered, as it became an important supplier of copra, or dried coconut, extensively used in the Western oil and fats industry as a raw material for soap and margarine. In the 1920s, the heyday of copra trade, many Selayarese converted their profits from the copra trade into gold teeth and hard cash. Copra thus earned the reputation of ‘green gold’. In this book the author analyses the socio-economic history of Selayar between 1600 and 1950 from an Asiacentric perspective. This is linked to wider socio-economic and political developments, including peripheralization, integration into the world market, and colonial incorporation. The themes discussed are of interest to anyone studying the development of maritime societies: commercialization necessitated by a fragile agricultural system, export specialization, trading networks, migration and the unifying role of Islam. Christiaan Heersink obtained his PhD at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1995 and was affiliated with the Centre of Asian Studies Amsterdam (CASA).

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