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Des gens inconvenants. Javanais et Néerlandais à l’aube de la rencontre impériale

Abstract : During the first decades of the 17th century, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) sought to establish itself on the coasts of Java in order to enjoy a direct and lasting access to the spices of the Insulindian world. But Java was not a politically virgin land: the VOC established its outpost on the outskirts of the Banten Sultanate, with which it intended to have commercial relations, and in 1628-1629 it had to sustain the assaults led by the armies of the lord of Mataram. Explaining the conflict-ridden relations between the representatives of the VOC and these Javanese political powers in terms of “cultural differences” is not very useful: it is better to analyze them in the light of the objective social attributes and explicit moral visions specific to the various protagonists of this “contact situation”. This was not an encounter between “the Netherlands” and “Java”, but between merchants from Hoorn and Amsterdam who had to negotiate, under very particular circumstances, with the highest members of the Javanese aristocracy. The VOC was neither at the service of a monarchical project, nor the expression of a consensually defined “national” consciousness: it was travailed by multiple allegiances, as the Prince of Orange had to constantly negotiate with the Grand Pensionary of Amsterdam and with the States-General, dominated by the rivalries between municipal potentates and by the representatives of the merchants. The Company asserted in no uncertain terms its autonomy vis-à-vis the States-General and the House of Orange. From its inception, its personnel was multi-national and came primarily from the merchants circles and from the world of the docks. The VOC was thus attuned to the various forms of urban commerce, which provided the social foundations of the power of the Regents of the seafront cities adamantly opposed to the old landed nobility. Conversely, at the same time, the Javanese nobiliary elites consistently ridicule the character of the merchant motivated by financial gain, in the name of an ideal of ascetic life. As a result, they also perceived the Dutch through the lens of the “moral wars” that the Javanese elites waged between themselves. The Dutch thus became, in the last instance, the characters of a specifically Javanese history.
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Romain Bertrand. Des gens inconvenants. Javanais et Néerlandais à l’aube de la rencontre impériale. Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, Editions du Seuil, 2008, pp.104 - 121. ⟨hal-01022151⟩

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