Guardians of the land in Kelimado : Louis Fontijne’s study of a colonial district in eastern Indonesia

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In 1940, a Dutch colonial officer named Louis Fontijne (1902-1968) was commissioned to conduct an investigation of indigenous land tenure and leadership in the Residency of Timor and Dependencies. Dealing specifically with Kelimado, a region included in the Nage district of central Flores, its main product was a remarkable study of society and culture and the effects of over three decades of Dutch administration and Christian proselytizing. In regard to ethnographic detail and analytical insight, the work, entitled ‘Grondvoogden in Kelimado’, resembles more an academic thesis than a government report; yet another interest is Fontijne’s forthright critique of colonial policy and recommendations for administrative reform. Incorporating an edited translation of the only comprehensive description of the Nage society produced during the colonial period, as well as an evaluation by a modern ethnographer, this book will be of interest to anthropologists, historians and other scholars concerned with Indonesia and the Netherlands Indies. Gregory Forth is at present Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta. His previous books include Rindi (1981), Beneath the volcano (1998), Dualism and hierarchy, (2001), and Nage birds (2004).

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