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Decolonizing Knowledge: Postcoloniality and the Making of Modern Indonesia’s Knowledge Culture, 1945-1970

University of Amsterdam / Utrecht University – NWO project

Project leader: Prof. dr. Remco Raben

PhD candidates: Sebastiaan Broere MSc, Eline Kortekaas MA

‘Decolonizing knowledge’ explores the development of ‘knowledge cultures’ in Indonesia during the late-colonial and immediate post-colonial period (1945‐1970). In those decades, Indonesians faced the task to establish an infrastructure for education and the transfer of knowledge, and a formulation of the role and aims of knowledge in postcolonial society.

Three questions will be central: 1) why did Indonesia (and many other newly independent countries) have difficulties in setting up a knowledge infrastructure? 2) How did the colonial heritage influence the development of knowledge cultures after independence? And 3) how did nationalist discourses lead to changes in tertiary education, publishing policies and the development of knowledge in big businesses, and how did it affect the distribution and application of knowledge?
Three PhD researchers will examine key vectors in this process: higher education, the publishing industry and private companies. All three researches take an original and innovative approach to the study of decolonization by looking at the emerging Indonesian knowledge culture – the institutions, policies and discourses of the production, dissemination and application of scientific knowledge. The researches contribute to explaining the obstacles to development in the postcolonial world. How did postcolonial governments develop an infrastructure for producing and distributing knowledge? How did main actors deal with the legacies of colonial knowledge? How did they perceive indigeneity and modernity in terms of knowledge culture? How did Indonesia overcome its lack of local expertise?
The programme will be used to engage in a discourse about the knowledge cultures and networks in present-day Global South.

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