Brown Nieces and Nephews in an All-White World: Gender and Genre in Dutch Children's Novels about the Dutch East Indies, 1890-1930

Elisabeth Wesseling*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article discusses children's novels about Eurasian children who were sent from the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands for the purpose of character reformation. The corpus shows a remarkable dominance of girl characters, while in actual practice it was mostly Eurasian boys who were sent away for secondary education. I explain this discrepancy between literary text and socio-historical context through the shaping influence of literary genre - that is, of the tomboy story in this particular case. This deflection largely invalidates colonial children's novels as reliable sources of information about historical educative practices, but it makes them all the more informative regarding the attitudes and values that drove these practices. I conclude by observing that these attitudes and values were anything but homogeneous or coherent, but allowed for a certain bandwidth of variation, which undercuts stark contrasts between colonisers and colonised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-208
Number of pages25
JournalBijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2020

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