Race Manifest: Colonial Administration and Racialisation in Nusantara traces themes in the history of racialisation in Nusantara through colonial sciences, racism, and displacement of self during the long centuries of subjugation in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Imperial powers had long stood on the grounds of race to promote and justify colonialism, but interactions between them created a new understanding of ‘race’ in Nusantara, a place of imagined and loose unity.
Race is conceptualised in this book as a binding entity to which colonial interests and modus operandi were formed, as an idea of human differences that were scientifically validated and socially acceptable—at least for those with power. The approach to identify and perpetuate racial types, or racialisation has undermined self-identities and collective histories in Nusantara. The region was at one point a geographical and cultural unit that celebrated the individualities of local kingdoms and their traditions, but were also recognized as having threads of continuities in language and culture, in politics and trade but this has fallen under the shadow of new knowledge and administration of various Western imperial rule.
Arguing that racial identities in Nusantara was made through altercating contacts between internal and external agencies, this book presents the complexities between imperial exchanges—Spanish, Dutch, British, American, German—and the contrasting currents of the region’s past. This book revisits the topic of racial classification and imperial interactions, with a more inclusive look at the neighbouring areas in the Philippines that had, historically speaking, formed cultural and political continuities. The lines of continuities are a defining perimeter; it justifies why certain countries are included while others are not. Sources on the Philippines, particularly ones from the American occupation, reveal that the process and agencies of racial classification in the country were not isolated.
It is from there that the author traced the interactions bridging the Philippines with Malaya, the Netherland Indies and Borneo. These concepts, for the purpose of this book, must be reassessed to cohere with its usage in the existing literature and how the author used it as an apparatus to investigate the anatomy of racial classification. The connections were built on the appearance of these terms: Nusantara, Malay, indigenousness, aborigines, migration and racial hegemony, to name a few. The most pressing and significant on the list is Nusantara. According to modern scholars such as Charles Allen, such a term is not merely a relic from Southeast Asia’s pre-Islamic past; it is a geographical boundary with a shared, common culture.
The creation of racial categories was not an exclusive experience for any one of the countries involved, nor for the imperial powers which had contributed to the demarcation of the population during the time. The main questions here are: what are the forms of interactions which took place between imperial actors and colonised peoples? What was the foundation of these interactions? If science prevailed as the justification for the classification of peoples based on race, how did the experience of the region of Nusantara fare? What were their common, binding narratives?
Race and racial science are exhaustive subjects that have been scrutinised many times through an array of philosophical, scientific, cultural and political lenses. The prevalence of the issue in society today affirms scholarly efforts of raking through history for answers to questions that have arisen.
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