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Workshop on the Aru Archipelago: ‘Comparative historical perspectives on the Indonesian fringe’

24/09/2015 @ 09:00 - 17:30

10.00 h: Welcome & introduction by Antoinette Schapper (Linguistics, University of Cologne & KITLV) 

11.00 h: “Ancestors and Islam in Ujir and Wasir”, by Emilie Wellfelt (Linguistics, University of Cologne & History, Linnaeus University)

This presentation summarizes existing documentation of oral traditions concerning early history and the introduction of Islam in Ujir. This will mean taking into account stories about both Ujir and the neighbouring island Wasir. Save for temporary fieldhouses and a fishing industry, Wasir is uninhabited at present, while according to local sources Wasir in the past had five villages. The two islands, Ujir and Wasir, were tightly connected. It can be noted that the ruin complexes in Ujir are with a few examples not part of the local history traditions. Rather, the villagers are intrigued by their existence.

12.00 h: “Consumption and Cultural Engagement at Ujir”, by Joss Whittaker (Archaeology, University of  Washington)

A surface survey of fragmentary ceramics and glassware near Ujir’s Kampung Lama suggests that the site’s inhabitants had remarkably vigorous connections with European and mainland Asian trade networks in the Early Modern Period. At the same time, they continued to produce and consume local ceramics. The evidence for early engagement with global trade networks points to Ujir’s importance in the Aru region, and suggests that Ujir is well-suited for a consumption study on the adoption of foreign material culture into Ujirese lifeways.

13.00 h: Lunch

14.30 h: “Aru and inter-island connectivities: A preliminary study of the early-modern archival resources”, by Hans Hägerdal (History, Linnaeus University)

The Aru Islands are sparsely mentioned in textual sources from the age of Tomé Pires (early 16th century). However, fuller information only starts with the ascendancy of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) after 1602, and especially after a contract with the islanders was concluded in 1623. There are irregular reports about the islands up to about 1660 when a fort was constructed there, and regular ones after that date. The VOC materials provide important clues about the processes of islamization and christianization, about interior relation between various negeri and islands of the group, and social and economic exchange with other parts of the Archipelago (pre-Dutch Banda and Ambon, Papua, the peoples of South Sulawesi). The paper discusses the methodological possibilities to use European archive material to elucidate indigenous structures, and how this may connect to other disciplines.

15.30 h: “The Siwa-Lima System in the Aru Islands: Pre-European era trade networks, sacred totems, peculiar  moieties, and modern electoral politics”, by Ross Gordon (St. Stephen’s College, University of Alberta)

This talk will consider how the 16th century Siwa-Lima Maluku trade system was absorbed over ensuing centuries into Aru social organisation. The system has defined economics, spiritual beliefs, kinship relations,and recent adjustments to democratic institutions. Ellen (2003) demonstrates the usefulness of anthropological approaches in understanding how modern and historic trade networks across Maluku shape and are shaped by local social organisation. The Aru Islands have long been an important source of animal products for East Indies trade networks. This trade led Aru Islanders to uniquely incorporate certain products and ideas from far off places into their lives. However, little attention has yet been given to the resilience of the Siwa-Lima system in Aru.

16.30 h: Discussion

17.30 h: End

If you wish to attend please register with Yayah Siegers: [email protected]

This workshop is co-funded by:





09:00 - 17:30
Event Category:


KITLV en Stichting de Sportwereld


KITLV, room 138
Reuvensplaats 2
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