By: Humphrey de la Croix
The loss of their soil of birth and enforced emigration meant the beginning of a diaspora of Indonesian Eurasians, in the former Netherlands Indies better known as Indos (from Indo-Europeans).
Dutch attempts to restore colonial rule between 1945 and 1950 had proven the rearguard of a declining colonial power. The defeat of the dictatorial and aggressive regimes Nazi-Germany, fascist Italy and imperialistic Japan left behind a new world order in which there was no room anymore for colonialism. Instead, the self-determination of nations would be the new mantra.
Although the Netherlands and Indonesia agreed to constitute a commonwealth of two independent states, president Soekarno in 1950 started a policy of confrontation. The former coloniser was declared an enemy and the relations between the two states deteriorated fast. This development precluded the massive leave of Europeans in Indonesia. Especially the Indos was made clear their place would not be anymore in Indonesia. Soekarno realized very well the (Indo-) Europeans were indispensable for good governance and business, but he needed the classical instrument of pointing an external enemy in order to hold his multi-ethnic and vast country together. Beside a profound economic crisis as a result of ten years of war had left behind a devastated country and an increasingly dissatisfied population. A disintegration of the young state was really at stake.
Status as Europeans
Although having the status as Europeans most of them felt the Indonesian archipelago was their natural home and habitat. Indos never had dreamt of living in the land of their cultural and social reference. But now Indonesia being an independent country the termination of their colonial prerogatives was to be expected. Colonial social stratification and relationships based of the colour bar had become outdated.
Initially in early 1950 Dutch and Indo-Europeans believed Indonesia would give them the same social-economic position in the newly established state. Because of this optimism most of the Indos had opted warga negara or becoming an Indonesian national. That belief proved to be naive and a great mistake. As soon as the (white) Dutch left the country, Indonesia tried to undermine the Indo position and prerogatives. Indonesians claiming an equal position overall in society took over their jobs, possessions and rights. Most Indos realized Indonesia was becoming a hostile environment where Indos, who declared themselves as non-Asians, were treated as foreign elements and anjing (bloodhounds) of the Dutch. Indonesia considered them as hostile, colonial remnants and, grotesque, spies of the imperialistic enemy.
Between 1945 and 1965 about persons left Indonesia, almost the complete European community, in five big “waves”. The majority went abroad in this period. Main destination was the Netherlands and some directly went to the United States (especially the “Sunshine” state California), Australia or Spain.
The emigration of Indos is a diaspora according to scientifically based characteristics:
1) An often traumatic dispersion away from the original centre towards peripheral regions. A majority of the Indos were not able to maintain themselves in the hostile atmosphere in Indonesia, their homeland. Not only the first generation of migrants but also their children and future generations are included in the diaspora. Periphery means her: abroad and in most cases the Netherlands and United States.
2) A collective memory, vision, history about the mother country Netherlands Indies.
3) The presumption the recipient country will not fully accept them or even not at all. This causes a feeling of alienation and isolation.
4) The ancestors’ homeland as the ideal place where they will go back to.
5) A strong ethnic conscience.
6) Transnational connections: even long after leaving the homeland people are sending letters and presents and having contacts by phone, telegraph or internet with family and friends left in the homeland. Later, when airline tickets became affordable Indos started spending holidays there. Transnational connections are strong factors in shaping and preservation of collective identities, in this case as Indo people in diaspora.
Indos dispersion over the world does not have all features of a diaspora:
1) Indos did not induce a troublesome relationship with the recipient society and neither did it emerge after a while. Because of their Western education and orientation Indos easily integrated.
2) The absence of feelings of solidarity with Indos in other countries. This aspect is difficult to determine as it is subjective and maybe overlaying trans nationalism. In general Indos like to recognize and meet other Indos, but to mention this solidarity would go too far.
3) The opportunity of establishing a distinctive, creative and enriching life(style) in the recipient countries. Maybe in a certain extent Indos had this opportunity in the Netherlands. As they mostly were oriented on Dutch values and lifestyle Indos got assimilated rather than being a new (sub)culture influencing the Dutch strongly.
4) Indos are not a cultural, political and ideological a homogenous group and as divers as the recipient societies.
To be continued.