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Sander van der Horst MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Asian History, Colonialism & Postcolonialism, Transnational History

Cohort/Start PhD: 2022-2023

The Garuda and the Dove – Indonesia, decolonization and global peace activism, 1950-1965

Leiden University

Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Marieke Bloembergen, dr. Carolien Stolte

Start: October 2022

Since the early 21st century, the term decolonization has grown into a catch-all phrase for a wide array of political activism across the globe. The word itself, however, is the byproduct of a long and open-ended history of resistance against imperialism, most notably from what is now often seen as the ‘global South’. In the case of Indonesia, decolonization has been mostly studied through and thus associated with notions of violence and armed conflict. Take, for example, the many studies on the ‘decolonization war’ (1945-1949) between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia. The period that followed has often been studied from the decolonization (or recolonization) of Dutch New Guinea and the political unrest that culminated in the massacre of approximately one million (Chinese) Indonesians in 1965 and 1966. Until recently, the early independence period of Indonesia has been understood as inherently violent. In addition, the period has sometimes been reduced to the antechamber of the military regime under Suharto which was to remain in power in 1998.

My research aims to correct and complement this perspective. Taking the 1950s in Indonesia as a moment of political, social and cultural transition and production, I look at the ways in which peace movements and peace activists understood Indonesian decolonization against the backdrop of (former) Dutch colonization, early Cold War politics and nuclear (dis)armament. Charting both the internationalist activism of Indonesians abroad as well as international peace initiatives in Indonesia, I aim to shed a new light on Indonesian activism during the first postwar wave of decolonization worldwide. By adding the perspectives of peace workers from different political backgrounds and convictions, I hope to formulate new visions of decolonization that informed the postcolonial politics of Indonesia and beyond. Analyzing the historical contingency of the term ‘decolonization’ in a specific Indonesian case, this research could also be of use in our day and age. Faced with the contemporary inequality between the global North and South on the one hand and with military conflicts across the world on the other, it introduces new and historical implications of using both ‘decolonization’ and ‘peace’.