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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

The Phantom World of Digul

Policing as Politics in Colonial Indonesia, 1926–1941

Digul was an internment colony for political prisoners that was established in 1926 in West Papua. This book argues that Digul is the key to understanding Indonesia’s colonial governance between the failed communist rebellion of late 1926 and the declaration of independence in 1945, a time when the Dutch regime attempted to impose what they called “rust en orde,” or peace and order, on the Indonesian people via the suppression of politics by the police. The political policing regime the Dutch Indies state created, Takashi Shiraishi shows, was simultaneously a success and a failure. While unrest was to some degree put down, the native terrain was never completely pacified, as activists linked up with each other in fluid networks that cut across spatial and ideational boundaries.
How did the government deploy political policing to achieve its policy objectives? What were the consequences and challenges for Indonesian activists? How was the government able to fashion its policing apparatus as the most potent instrument to achieve peace and order when the Great Depression hit the Indies, nationalist and communist forces were gaining strength in other places of the world, and war was coming both in Europe and Asia? This book answers those questions and more, breaking new ground for our understanding of the history of the Dutch Indies state in the early part of the twentieth century.

360 pages | 6 x 9

Asian Studies: Southeast Asia and Australia

Political Science: Political Behavior and Public Opinion

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"Dense with material, this study offers insights into how individuals fit into a larger nationalist narrative and how and where Dutch assumptions aligned (and did not align) with action on the ground. It provides a much more expansive view of colonial policy from 1926 to 1941 than a history of Digul itself would."


"This is a rich historical study which synthesizes important interventions that Takashi Shiraishi has offered to the field of Indonesian history."

South East Asia Research

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