In March 1828, Pierre Dubois took up his post as Civil Administrator to the ruler of Badung in south Bali. His principal task was to recruit slave-soldiers for service in the Dutch colonial army, but he soon became embroiled in the intrigues of local Balinese politics and society. For more than three years, as he oversaw this trade in men for military service, Dubois astutely negotiated and brokered the cultural chasm that separated his colonial masters in far-off Java from the rulers and people of Bali with whom he interacted on a daily basis. Dubois was also a keen observer, an ethnographic fieldworker avant la lettre, and his remarkable cross-cultural journey is recorded in two sets of unpublished documents—his official reports in Dutch, with their evolving account of the administrative and cultural hurdles he faced; and his vivid ethnographic description of Balinese society, culture, religion and politics, written in his native French to a fictive correspondent, his Légère idée de Balie en 1830 (Sketch of Bali in 1830).
In this seminar, Creese will draw on these eyewitness accounts of the earliest sustained colonial encounter between the Balinese and the Dutch to consider (along and against the grain) questions of colonial encounter and cultural construction in early nineteenth-century Indonesia.
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