In colonial Java, pluralistisch law courts (landraden and ommegaande rechtbanken) were the only sites where the representatives of most regional European and non-European power structures came together while on duty, and decided on the verdict together. Consequently, legal pluralities were forged and the perspectives of Dutch and Javanese judges, as well as Chinese captains, local prosecutors and Islamic advisors, all influenced the law court sessions. Historian Sanne Ravensbergen researched the practices of the pluralistic courts in nineteenth-century Java and wrote a dissertation entitled Courtrooms of Conflict. In this talk, she will discuss the world of the colonial courtroom by focussing on the certain and uncertain practices of criminal law and its consequences for colonial rule, local elites and the local population. In a space where various actors entered the stage, it was by keeping laws undefined, procedures vague, and networks informal—by institutionalising uncertainty—that space was created to exercise colonial rule.
Sanne Ravensbergen is a historian of colonial Indonesia, based at the Institute for History at Leiden University. The local setting of colonial spaces is the focal point of her work that tries to understand the interactions between state and society in the Dutch imperial context. Her PhD thesis Courtrooms of Conflict demonstrates the role of criminal law practices, legal pluralities and courtroom dynamics in the process of colonial state formation in nineteenth century Java. For her postdoctoral research (being part of the project ‘Institutional Memory in the Making of Colonial Culture’) she will turn her attention to the long-term development of Dutch colonial mentality, in particular by unraveling the practices and ideologies of colonial commissions in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Please register if you wish to attend: [email protected]
Photo: KITLV collection