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Marleen Reichgelt MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Colonialism & Postcolonialism, Dutch History, Religious History & Theology

Cohort/Start PhD: 2017-2018

Making the colonial child visible. Children moving between Indo-European and local cultures on Netherlands New Guinea (1905-1962)

Radboud Universiteit
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Geertje Mak, Prof. dr. Marit Monteiro
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2017

Over the last two decades, journalists, politicians, and historians have increasingly scrutinised the position of children in colonial contexts. Following the 1997 ‘Stolen Children’ National Inquiry in Australia, historical research has disclosed practices in which indigenous and mix-raced children were removed from their families to be ‘civilised’ and raised to Euro-American standards. In Dutch colonies too, children functioned as instruments of socio-political change.
Indigenous children were not just passive objects of colonial policies. Recent scholarship has shifted from viewing colonisation as a one-way process, to becoming aware of the complex processes of interaction between colonial actors. The dynamic engagements between missionaries and children were defined by mutual dependence and entanglement. Preliminary research on the mission on Netherlands New Guinea gives evidence to various ‘civilising’ practices, and hints at the interesting fact that children employed missionary knowledge and connections for purposes unintended by the missionaries.
This PhD project will examine how the Catholic mission addressed and engaged local children in the ‘civilising’ project on Netherlands New Guinea between 1905 and 1962 and what kinds of agency children developed in response. Practices shaped by encounters, interactions, and negotiations are analysed using a combination of textual and visual sources.