New research | Unpacking KITLV Special Collections

From March 2024 KITLV will run a new pilot-project on the coloniality of Asian library and manuscript-formations.

With KITLV Special Collections as point of departure, we study the social biographies of manuscripts, and the colonial histories of collecting, to gain insight into the role of violence therein, and to recognize local agency in the makings of so-called Asian Libraries. The KITLV’s Special Collections thereby provide a prism to understand what unpacking ‘the Asian Library’ may reveal.

The manuscript and book collection of KITLV (founded in 1851) is one of the largest covering the region that is today Indonesia, and has, an important Caribbean collection. It is well known that a large part of this collection has a colonial origin, as it was shaped by, and embedded, in the context of Dutch colonial history, mainly regarding the – then – so-called East- and West-Indies. Little do we know, however, about the ways manuscripts have been collected locally, or about the context, the power relations, the violence, and the mechanisms of selection that formed the base of collecting.

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