Moluccan integration a defining factor in Dutch minority policy

After the decolonization of Indonesia in 1951, a group of Moluccan immigrants came to the Netherlands under the auspices of the Dutch government. The history of their integration turned out to be a defining factor in shaping the Netherlands’ policy on ethnic minorities, says Fridus Steijlen in his inaugural lecture.

01/29/2018 | 4:00 PM

In June 2017, Fridus Steijlen was appointed Professor of Moluccan Migration and Culture in Comparative Perspective, an endowed chair at the Faculty of Social Sciences. In his inaugural lecture, he explains how Moluccans ended up serving in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) in the nineteenth century and how they came to the Netherlands in 1951, following the decolonization of Indonesia. Once in the Netherlands, the Moluccans formed a close-knit community with its own institutions and a distinct cultural identity. Steijlen also discusses how Moluccans continued to maintain close ties with their families back home.

Diversity within the Moluccan community
Steijlen argues that the dominant narrative in Moluccan-Dutch history is that of the Moluccans who served in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. He is keen to emphasize that there are other stories to be told: the Moluccan community in the Netherlands is more diverse than most people think, and it is vital that this diversity be recognized by historical research. He also stresses the importance of comparing the history of the Moluccans with that of other groups. The relevance of Steijlen’s research, he explains, lies in the fact Moluccan integration was a defining factor in shaping Dutch policy on ethnic minorities. Moreover, the research is highly relevant to a number of current social debates regarding diversity.

Steijlen will give his inaugural speech on Friday, 9 February at 15.45 in the Aula of VU Amsterdam’s Main Building.

Source: Tjakalele in the Houtrusthallen in Den Haag, 25 April 1990 (Stg. Moluks Historisch Museum/O. Tatipikalawan).