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NIAS Lecture 2019: Decolonization and the Political Use of History
24 June 2022 -
09:00 - 17:00
NIAS Conference Room

Exploring the Violent End of European Empires

Workshop by NIAS Theme Group

The violence attending the end of European empires after 1945 continues to fascinate historians, cultural anthropologists, and political scientists, principally those working from comparative politics and international relations perspectives. With so many working across disciplines it is little wonder that there have been big changes of analytical direction, specialist language, and conceptual approach to the subject of violent decolonization, its actors and agents, the responses and rights of those targeted. What are the ideas and approaches to studying forms and legacies of decolonization violence today?

Building on the experience of the 2019 NIAS-project and the resulting book Empire’s Violent End, a group of specialist scholars will gather at NIAS for a one-day workshop on Friday 24 June to discuss their ideas and approaches to studying the forms, dynamics, and legacies of decolonization violence. The first copy of the book will be presented to NIAS-director Jan Willem Duyvendak.

Themes that will be explored:

  • Involvement in decolonization violence: participants, ‘perpetrators’, pretexts, and targets
  • Violence at macro and micro-levels: perspectives and interpretations
  • Inscribing violence: bodies, minds, mutilation and marking
  • Gender dynamics and sexual violence
  • Forced population removal and resource control
  • Ecological violence and environmental spoliation
  • Regulating violence: rules, laws, and transgressions
  • De-exceptionalizing and de-centring : colonial and non-colonial comparability and transimperial violence

About the theme group

This workshop is organised by members of the NIAS theme group in 2018/19 “Comparing the wars of decolonization: Extreme violence during reoccupation and counter-insurgency, 1945-1975”Click here for more information about the theme-group project at NIAS.

The results of the multi-year research project “Independence, decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950” have been presented on 17 February 2022. The findings, presentations and responses can be found on this website.

Members of this theme group were Dr. Thijs Zaalberg Brocades and Dr. Bart Luttikhuis, Dr. Pierre Asselin and Dr. Esther Captain, Brian McAllister Linn and Azarja Harmanny, Dr. Natalya Vince and Dr. Stef Scagliola, Dr. Huw Bennett and Professor Peter Romijn, and Professor Martin Thomas and Dr. Roel Frakking.


The theme group “Comparing the wars of decolonization: Extreme violence during reoccupation and counter-insurgency, 1945-1975” was part of the large-scale research programme Independence, decolonization, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950, carried out by the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), the Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.