‘You inherited that trait from your Eurasian mother’: The representation of mixed-race characters in Dutch colonial literature

Petra Boudewijn

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    This article addresses the portrayal of Eurasians, descendants from interracial relationships between colonizer and colonized, in nineteenth-century Dutch literature set in colonial Indonesia. As racial in-between group, Eurasians occupied a complex position within colonial society. The European community in the Dutch East Indies was a widely differentiated group that consisted of both white Europeans (i.e. ‘racially pure’) and Eurasians (racially mixed). Although equal before the law, in colonial imagination, an opposition existed between these two groups. The colonial representation of Eurasians is examined in two then widely read novels that take on opposite views on miscegenation: Ups & Downs of Life in the Indies (1890) written by Maurits (pseudonym of Dutch author P. A. Daum) and Fernand (1874) by Melati van Java (pseudonym of Eurasian writer Marie Sloot). In this article, it is argued that Eurasians are depicted as so-called blurred copies of white Europeans. As such, they assume a double role: on the one hand, they confirm the alleged superiority of white Europeans; on the other hand, they pose a threat to the whites’ position in the colony. Furthermore, the cultural context, from which these novels emerged, and the role literature plays within this framework is reflected upon.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)239–260
    Number of pages22
    JournalDutch Crossing
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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