The Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde / Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) aims to be a world-class research institute for the study of Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, with a focus on Indonesia and the ‘Dutch’ Caribbean, in an interdisciplinary and comparative perspective. Benefitting from the unrivalled collections offered on campus by Leiden University, KITLV researchers explore (dis)continuities between the (pre)colonial and postcolonial period, and articulate their research agendas empirically and theoretically in order to advance wider debates on the meandering paths of globalization. KITLV engages with the academic community across the world, as well as with (inter)national governmental organizations, NGOs, the media, and the interested general public. KITLV is an institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Research at KITLV is interdisciplinary by nature and characterized by approaches including (1) a strong historical dimension exploring (dis)continuities from the (pre)colonial to the postcolonial period and (2) an anthropological perspective; both of which aim to bring human agency into focus and investigate questions concerning motivation and signification; while (3) a political approach focuses on broader frameworks of power that mediate between global forces and local actors. History, anthropology, and the study of politics and language all offer comparative approaches for opening windows to wider global connections. Archival research, field work and textual and visual analysis are vital to this enterprise. KITLV research is characterized by an ongoing reflection on the historical linkages between (post)colonial scholarship and collections policies. This implies methodological reflection on the uses of colonial archives, and on the meaning and impact of e-technologies in academic research and data management.

KITLV invests in two long-term research themes: State, Violence and Citizenship and Mobility and Identity. These themes, relevant to the processes of post-colonial state formation and globalisation in South East Asia and the Caribbean at large, are connected by interrelated questions concerning the dynamics of power, meaning and belonging. KITLV aims to translate these themes into agenda-setting projects conducted by research teams consisting of senior scholars, postdoctoral researchers, PhD candidates and visiting fellows.

State, Violence and Citizenship

Research in this theme focuses on regime change, political violence and the articulation of citizenship. It is directed at various levels of governance in order to investigate the embeddedness of the state in society, with a focus on violent conflicts and reconciliation, processes of ethnic, religious and national belonging, and the articulation of forms of citizenship. Over the past years, a series of externally funded projects in this area were conducted at the KITLV. These focused on changes at the regional level in Indonesia (‘Renegotiating Boundaries’, ‘In Search of Middle Indonesia’, ‘From Clients to Citizens’, and ‘Shifting Elite Networks’) as well as on decolonization and governance in the Caribbean.

Mobility and Identity

The movement of people, ideas and goods, and processes of identification and differentiation that often transcend (former) colonial borders and imperial frameworks are central to this theme. Notions of ‘religion’, ‘origin’, ‘tradition’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘modernity’ and the institutional contexts in which these are framed and authorized are vital in tracing complex processes of belonging and exclusion. Recent projects that address this theme include ‘Articulating Modernity’ on the history of popular music in Southeast Asia, ‘Postcolonial Migrations’ from various former Dutch colonies to the Netherlands, ‘The Javanese Diaspora’, and ‘Java and the Idea of Greater India’.