Abstract:
In my talk I trace the experiences of Javanese public prosecutor Soemarsono, whose refusal in 1913 to squat, sit on the floor, and wear ethnic dress in deference to his colonial superior resulted in the successful contestation of cultural hegemony in colonial Indonesia. By placing Soemarsono’s experiences in the civil service and the nascent nationalist movement in a global context, it will be demonstrated how broad global developments, such as the emergence of the civilizing mission ideology, the rise of Japan, the Chinese Revolution, and Islamic Modernism, intersect with the perspective of individual agents in world history. Moreover, Soemarsono’s story exemplifies the search for “national identity” in Indonesia in particular and Southeast Asia in general by locating their origins as far back as the Hindu-Buddhist past (1st century onwards), the arrival of Islam (13th century onwards), and the arrival of Europeans (16th century onwards).

Biosketch:
Arnout van der Meer is an Assistant Professor in history at Colby College in Maine, USA. He earned a PhD in history from Rutgers University, specializing in Southeast Asian, colonial, and global and comparative history, after receiving MA degrees from both Leiden University in the Netherlands and Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA. His research explores the importance of material and visual culture, such as dress, architecture, deference rituals, and symbols of power, for both the legitimization of colonial authority as well as its contestation in turn of the twentieth century Indonesia. In
particular, his work focuses on how these complex cultural dynamics were transformed by global developments in a deeper past, such as the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism in the region, Islamization, and European exploration and expansion, as well as more contemporary developments as rapid technological innovation, evolutionary thinking, the
rise of Japan, the Chinese revolution, Islamic Modernism, and the intensification of the Dutch “civilizing mission.”

At Colby College Van der Meer offers classes in Southeast Asian and global history, among others a survey course titled Patterns and Processes in World History. As a co-sponsor of the College wide humanities theme Origins for the 2017-2018 academic year, he hopes to explore how the field of Big History could help demonstrate that all pursuits of knowledge are in fact related. This is not just an important message for students, but for faculty as well. Too often we (are led to) believe that some pursuits of knowledge are superior, more practical, more valuable, more artistic than others, while in fact, all disciplines work in conjunction with one another in a system of collective learning and understanding. This precious notion needs to be placed at the center of every college education.

  • Personal History and Deconstruction of the Onion Theory December 13, 2017 srkohliArnout Van Demeer’s lecture was titled “In Search of the Origins of National Identity in Southeast Asia” centered around Soemarsano, and sparked a particularly chord in me given my father’s ...
  • Cultures and National Identity December 12, 2017 amcola20I have previously lived abroad and have been exposed to multiple cultures for extended periods of time. I have been very lucky in that regard and believe that through this ...
  • going with the rest of my night… December 12, 2017 ssrabi20In this week’s lecture we sat down with Arnott Van Demeer who discussed the Search of the Origins of National Identity in Southeast Asia. Professor Demeer focused particularly on Indonesia ...
  • Pealing The Onion November 25, 2017 bkibet  Professor Arnout Van Der Meer had a lot of knowledge of the Southeast Asia and more so Indonesia and his research on Soemarson. Professor Van Der Meer said he is ...
  • Arnout van der Meer – Origins of National Identity in Indonesia November 25, 2017 Sarah TaftOn November 7th, Professor Arnout van der Meer focused our Origins discussions in on the national identity of Indonesia, and how the country’s history makes it rather difficult to nail ...
  • Onion vs Oyster (Mignonette?) November 24, 2017 cmajgaarProfessor van der Meer visited our extended afternoon seminar on November 7th to discuss the story of Indonesian nationalism. Arnout suggested that we project a map of South East Asia ...
  • Recalling my Trip to Indonesia November 22, 2017 ashibataIt was last year that me and my friends decided to go to Indonesia as a destination for our graduation trip. We mainly visited Bali island and Central Java that ...
  • The complexity of nationality November 22, 2017 Anna YuAs a student growing up in East Asia, other regions in this continent always seem both mysterious and somehow connected to me. Therefore, it was a great pleasure to have ...
  • The Onion November 14, 2017 Haley AndonianHaley Andonian Origins November 7, 2017   Igniting Change: In Search of the “Origins” of National Identity in Indonesia Arount van der Meer   I found Professor van der Meer’s use of imagery throughout his lecture extremely ...
  • Nationalism in Indonesia November 14, 2017 cmhall20The nationalist movement in Indonesia traces its roots to a rebellion against colonial rule. In the beginning of the 20th century, the first nationalist group was created which rebelled against ...