Current research

Regime Change and the Dynamics of Culture: Family, networks and representation. New perspectives on Indonesian Chinese life in Southeast Asia and beyond, 1920s-1970s (Indonesian Chinese Program) is a research and documentation program that aims to unravel the intricacies and resilience of Indonesian Chinese family and business networks in the Netherlands East Indies/Indonesia, with a focus on the everyday life experiences of the people involved.    

Map of Indonesia (Beeldbank WO2)

Researcher: dr. Peter Post
Duration: ongoing since 2006
Cooperation: The program is developed in close collaboration with international partners and has resulted in numerous workshops and various publications. Partners are, among others, Nobuhiro Aizawa (Kyushu University), Marleen Dieleman (National University of Singapore), Pui Tak Lee (University of Hong Kong/Central China Normal University), Leo Douw (emeritus University of Amsterdam), Abidin Kusno (York University, Toronto), Juliette Koning (Oxford Brookes University), Andreas Susanto (Atma Jaya University, Yogyakarta) and Kuo Huei-Ying (Johns Hopkins University).

More information

Indonesia, as a nation-state in the making, has witnessed several violent changes in regimes in the twentieth century. Despite these political transformations, the ethnic Chinese have continued to be regarded, together with the colonial “masters”, as perennial “outsiders”, with their political loyalties uncertain at best.  Even with the cultural integration into Indonesian everyday life and society today, they continued to be accorded a “special” political status within the framework of the Indonesian nation.  Just as the Indonesian state and society continued to see a Chinese “problem”, the Chinese in Indonesia continued to labour under stereotypical constructions within the nation-state.  Much of the political debate over the Chinese in Indonesia has, however, only glossed over the intricacies and complexities of “Chinese-ness” and the variegated cultural, social, economic and political lives of the Chinese in Indies-Indonesia.

The program is an attempt to re-examine political stereotypes, which have shaped both state attitudes and popular sentiment towards the ethnic Chinese through different regimes and periods of cataclysmic change in Indonesian society.  A stepping out of these frames is crucial to understanding the long-term significance and roles of Indonesian Chinese in Indonesian society, culture and economy.  The participants in the program believe a more holistic and deeper understanding of the business, cultural, and social life of the Chinese in Indonesia, drawing parallels and comparisons across ethnic lines, and a re-consideration of the broader frames of Indonesian history (including its regional and global contexts), conjures important possibilities for re-thinking “Chinese-ness” in Indonesia and the place of the Chinese in Indonesian history.

Below is a list of workshops and meetings that have been conducted within the framework of the research program.

  • Good Times, Bad Times: New Perspectives on Chinese Business and Family Adaptations to Changing Regimes in Indonesia. Panel at the Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ) Tokyo, co-organized with Nobuhiro Aizawa (CSEAS Kyoto), Nobuto Yamamoto (Keio University) and Marleen Dieleman (Leiden University). July 2006.
  • Indonesian Chinese Studies at the Crossroads? Challenges and Prospects – Dutch and Japanese Explorations. Amsterdam. International workshop co-organized with Kosuke Mizuno (CSEAS, Kyoto), Sikko Visscher (ASiA) and Marleen Dieleman (Leiden University). February 2007.
  • Public Eyes/Private Lenses. Visualizing the Chinese in Indonesia and in North America. Vancouver. International workshop and book project, co-organized with Abidin Kusno (UBC, Vancouver). March 2007.
  • The Ethnic Chinese Family in Asia in Times of Turmoil and Regime Change during the Twentieth Century. Amsterdam. Workshop, co-organized with Sikko Visscher (ASiA). December 2008.
  • Chinese Identities and Inter-Ethnic Coexistence and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. Kyoto. Workshop and book project, co-organized with Caroline Hau (CSEAS Kyoto) en Nobuhiro Aizawa (IDE, Tokyo).
  • Chinese Indonesian Business in the 21st Century. Historical and Contemporary Dynamics. Yogyakarta. International workshop, co-organized with Marleen Dieleman (National University Singapore), Juliette Koning (Oxford Brookes University), Andreas Susanto (Atma Jaya University, Yogyakarta). September 2011.
  • Border Societies Chinese descendants in East Asia under Japanese colonialism 1910s – 1930s, Macao. International workshop, organizer Leo Douw (University of Amsterdam). June 2013.
  • Merchants in Migration: Transnational Networks, Japanese Colonialism and China’s Civil War, 1930s-40s, Hong Kong. International conference, organizer Pui Tak Lee (Chinese University Hong Kong), June 2013.

In the period 2005-2007 the program also organized some fifteen work meetings, the NIOD Indonesian Chinese Afternoon Meetings, NICAM) where program members presented their research findings.  

Current activities

Within this program Post is currently finishing a monograph on “The Rise and Fall of the Oei Tiong Ham Concern, 1860s-1960s” (working-title), the largest and most powerful Overseas Chinese business conglomerate in colonial Asia. This study is not a mere family business history, but is framed within a broader socio-cultural, political and global context, which includes the confrontation between the Japanese and European colonial empires in Asia. It steps beyond the diaspora perspective and stereotyped political-identity frameworks and reassesses some long-held views on the role of Indonesian Chinese business elites in the development of Indonesian culture, society and economy.  

Some publications:

  • Hau, Caroline en Nobuhiro Aizawa, eds., Proceedings of the CSEAS-NIOD joint international workshop on Chinese Identities and Inter-Ethnic Coexistence and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (Kyoto: CSEAS, 2008).
  • Post, Peter. “Peranakan Elite Family Networks and Southeast Asia’s Indigenous Royalty: Status, Modernity, and Identity”, in: Hau en Aizawa, Proceedings, pp. 1-30
  • Dieleman, Marleen and Peter Post. “Punctuations in Emerging Markets: Regime Change and Family Firm Responses in Indonesia”, in: Economics and Finance in Indonesia (2009), Vol. 57, 1, pp. 25-46.
  • Post, Peter. “Java’s Capitan Cina and Javanese royal families: Status, modernity, and power – Major-titulair Be Kwat Koen and Mangkunegoro XII”, in: Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies (Waseda University), no. 13, October 2009, pp. 49-66.
  • Dieleman, Marleen, Juliette Koning and Peter Post, eds. Chinese Indonesians and Regime Change (Boston: Brill Publishers, 2010)
  • Kusno, Abidin. Visual Cultures of the Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia (London, New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016)
  • Peter Post, with May Ling Thio. The Kwee Family of Ciledug. Family, Status, and Modernity in Colonial Java. Visualizing the Private Life of the Peranakan Chinese Sugar Elite (Volendam: LM Publishers, 2018)