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Bloembergen, Prof. dr. Marieke

Marieke Bloembergen is a cultural historian and senior researcher at KITLV, and professor in Heritage and Postcolonial Studies in Indonesian History at Leiden University’s Colonial and Global History Department. Her research interests concern the political dynamics of cultural knowledge production in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia, as understood in their local, inter-Asian and global dimensions, and with a focus on networks of material culture, heritage practices, religion, memory, and policing. Her present research focuses on scholarly and religious knowledge networks between Indonesia, India and the West, and the makings of moral geographies of Greater India, 1880s-1980s. In that context she also explores the relations between collecting histories of Hindu-Buddhist antiquities, and the rise of an Asian art market.

Educated in an interdisciplinary environment, in the midst of historians and social scientists, Marieke Bloembergen allows her research to be guided by the view that culture – including knowledge production – is always also political. She wrote her PhD-thesis on the Netherlands-Indies at the world exhibitions (1880-1931) at the University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam School of Social Science Research, ASSR). As a post-doctoral researcher at Utrecht University she wrote a monograph on the social history of policing and violence in the Netherlands Indies. She came at KITLV in 2008 as co-author and researcher of the NWO-funded Cultural Dynamics research program Sites, Bodies, and Stories; the dynamics of cultural heritage formation in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia – a collaborative program between Free University, NIOD and KITLV in the Netherlands and Gadjah Mada University and the Eijkman Institute in Indonesia.

Her most recent monograph, written together with Martijn Eickhoff, is The politics of heritage in Indonesia. A cultural history (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Bloembergen is also the author of  Colonial Spectacles: The Netherlands and the Netherlands-Indies at the world exhibitions, 1880-1931, (2006). She published a monograph (2009) and several articles on policing and modernity, surveillance and perceptions of (in)security in colonial Indonesia.

At the moment, Bloembergen is working on a monograph on the history and makings of ‘Greater India’, and the significance this idea has garnered for the imagining of Indonesia. ‘Greater India’ refers to a unified idea of Asia developing since the late nineteenth-century, in which present-day South and Southeast Asia, including Islamic Indonesia, came to be seen, around the world – in museums, academia and popular culture, – as part of a single civilization with Hindu-Buddhist and spiritual characteristics, originating in India. Bloembergen focuses on the role of scholarly and spiritual knowledge networks in this history, and examines how, why, and with what consequences knowledge exchange between pilgrims, scholars and hippies has contributed to this distorted view. Thereby, she aims to make visible the links between scholarly and religious knowledge for the 1880-1990 period, from the establishment of the theosophical society up to and including the hippie trail.

Selected Publications

With Martijn Eickhoff, The politics of heritage in Indonesia. A cultural history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.

‘New spiritual movements, scholars, and ‘Greater India’ in Indonesia, 1920s–1970s’, Modern times in Southeast Asia, 1920s-1970s, in: Susie Protschky and Tom van den Berge (eds), p. 57-86. Leiden: Brill, 2018.

‘The open ends of the Dutch empire and the Indonesian past. Decolonization, ‘Indic’ knowledge networks, and the problem of heritage across borders’, Oxford Handbook on Ends of Empire, in: Martin Thomas and Andrew Thompson (eds), p. 391-413. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

‘Borobudur in ‘the light of Asia’. Scholars, pilgrims and knowledge networks of Greater India, 1920s-1970s’, Belonging across the Bay of Bengal. Rites, migrations, rights, in: Michael Laffan (ed.), p. 35-57. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

With Emmanuel Blanchard and Amandine Lauro, (eds.), Policing colonial empires. Cases, connections, boundaries, ca 1850-1970. Brussels: Peter Lang, 2017.

With Emmanuel Blanchard and Amandine Lauro,‘Tensions of policing in colonial situations, ca. 1850-1970’, Policing colonial empires, in: Emmanuel Blanchard, Marieke Bloembergen and Amandine Lauro (eds.). Brussels: Peter Lang, 2017.

With Martijn Eickhoff, ‘Decolonizing Borobudur: Moral engagements and the fear of loss. The Netherlands, Japan and (post-)colonial heritage politics in Indonesia’, in: S. Legêne, B. Purwanto, H. Schulte Nordholt (eds.), Sites, Bodies and Stories. A comparative approach to history and heritage in colonial and postcolonial Indonesia, p. 33-66. Singapore: NUS, 2015.

With Martijn Eickhoff, ‘The colonial archaeological hero reconsidered. Postcolonial perspectives on the ‘discovery’ of pre-historic Indonesia’, in: Gisela Eberhardt and Fabian Link (eds.), Historiographical approaches to past archaeological research, p. 133-164. Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2015 [Berlin Studies of The Ancient World 32].

With Ana Dragoljovic and Henk Schulte Nordholt eds., Colonial re-collections: Memories, Objects, and Performances. Special Issue Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (BKI) 170:4, 2014.

With M. Eickhoff, ‘Exchange and the protection of Java’s antiquities; A transnational approach to the problem of heritage in colonial Java’, Journal of Asian Studies 72-4: 1-24, 2013.

De geschiedenis van de politie in Nederlands-Indië. Uit zorg en angst, Amsterdam: Boom/ Leiden: KITLV Uitgeverij, 2009.

Colonial Spectacles: The Netherlands and the Netherlands-Indies at the world exhibitions, 1880-1931, Singapore, Singapore University Press, 2006.

Related Research Project(s)
Related Links

Research output (KNAW research portal – PURE)

Click here for the full publication list (in PDF).