Colonial Civilisation: Consolation and Iron Fist within the Dutch Ethical Policy in Aceh

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There has been persisting debate among scholars of colonial and postcolonial studies on whether colonial civilisation laid the foundational influences inherited by developed former colonised nations. Although many postcolonial critics have debunked this idea, there is an inadequate narrative from the Dutch experience in Indonesia. Numerous scholars have agreed that the Dutch Ethical Policy was not rooted in a purely humanitarian civilising mission, but instead was the result of another prolonged inefficient government strategy or experiment based on the Dutch occupation of Aceh, which was colonised from 1873 to 1942. Since Aceh was the basis for the decision to implement the Dutch Ethical Policy, this paper intends to examine the extent of efficiency, role and implications of this policy towards the Acehnese society. Based on ethnological studies in the area and political advice authored and minted by Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936), ethical policy is defined as a form of consolation and “iron fist”, a clear-cut policy deemed to ensure the authoritarian power of a colonial regime. This study finds that, as a result of this policy, Acehnese influential figures who swore allegiance to the Dutch were targeted for propagating enlightenment mission, while those who chose to rebel were subjected to scrutiny and violence through military measure. The modern education system and infrastructure that were manifested from this ethical policy created new classes in society, where access to numerous privileges and networks continuously differed. Through qualitative research methodology, numerous colonial newspapers, reports and correspondence were used as analysing tools. It is expected that this paper will provide an additional view on studies of modern civilisation in Aceh and Indonesia.

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