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All inclusive: lustrum UG, 5-15 June 2019

Science programme Conference: “Growing together: Celebrating diversity and fostering inclusion”

Iris Busschers

Working towards an inclusive society also means acknowledging how past practices and discourses impact current mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. In her influential book ‘White Innocence’, Gloria Wekker analyses the impact of a colonial cultural archive on present Dutch self-understandings. In this presentation, I take up Wekker’s insight and utilise it to analyse one often forgotten strand of Dutch colonial society: Protestant missions and their publics in the Netherlands.

In order to motivate the Dutch public to support Reformed missions in colonial Indonesia, there was a constant flow of information that portrayed colonial encounters at what were called the mission sites. This information took various forms (e.g. correspondence, stories, literature, movies, exhibitions) and included transnational, colonial, national and local circuits. Through this information, a specific image was formulated about mission as a moral project.

In this presentation, I take up one incident in the mission archive that involved the description of a performance of ‘an Atjeh war’ by missionary school children to celebrate the royal marriage of Princess Juliana in an interchange between a missionary and a local women’s missionary circle in the Netherlands. In light of the letters that follow in the mission archive, and through a contextualisation with the broader missionary public, I reflect on the persistence of Dutch narratives of ‘benevolence’ and ‘care’ in the context of its colonial past and its entanglement with religious projects such as Protestant missions. Specifically, I trace how mission organised itself regionally and along gendered, raced and classed lines, how the maintenance of white friendships and affective communities co-constructed a colonial common sense that obscured violence, and by reflecting on the voices and knowledge that were heard and silenced in the archive and in historiography.

Iris Busschers is currently finishing up her PhD dissertation on missionary projects in the Netherlands and colonial Indonesia during the first half of the twentieth century from a new imperial history perspective. At the University of Groningen, she has also developed a university minor on Gender and Diversity together with Rozemarijn van de Wal and Margriet Fokken (to be launched in September 2019), she is part of the Centre for Gender Studies and she teaches a course on LGBTQ+ Minorities in the Minorities and Multilingualism Bachelor.

Last modified:03 June 2019 4.50 p.m.
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