Departing from Java

This project is the first attempt to systematically examine the Javanese diaspora as a global phenomenon. It aims at tracing the origins and analyzing the developments of this diaspora across time and space, covering precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial times and zooming in on Javanese communities in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania. It targets the mostly forced and often traumatic dispersion of Javanese across and within state borders, the connections they developed with Java as a real or imagined authoritative source of norms, values, and loyalties, and the stand they took when confronted with issues pertaining to social and personal boundaries they wished to establish or uphold in their host environment.

A workshop held in Yogyakarta in November 2013 brought together area studies specialists with a background in the social sciences and the humanities. Applying a comparative approach enables us not only to reflect more thoroughly on the past experiences of communities belonging to the Javanese diaspora, but also to move beyond the particularities of these communities to yield broader insights on Javanese transnationalism. We consider the agency, networks, and institutions of people in the diaspora and investigate the effects of the time-space compression on the transnational orientations of many contemporary citizens. Ultimately, such an overall picture will help to position this diaspora amidst other Asian diasporas (such as the Chinese and the Indian) and to incorporate the Javanese case in typologies it has been excluded from thus far. As an outcome of this workshop an edited volume with more than a dozen essays is in preparation; publication is expected in 2015.

This project is a collaborative effort of Peter Meel (History, University of Leiden) and Rosemarijn Hoefte (KITLV) in collaboration with Bambang Purwanto and Sri Margana (both Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta).


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