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Colonialism Inside Out: Everyday Experience and Plural Practice in Dutch Institutions in Sri Lanka (c. 1700-1800)

Researchers

Time frame

September 2017 - August 2022

Project description

This interdisciplinary project takes a novel socio-legal approach to the history of colonialism by analysing the everyday interaction between an Asian society and an expanding European bureaucracy. It focuses on how ordinary people in Sri Lanka experienced and navigated normative institutions of taxation, legal action and religion that were set up by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). These institutions were created by the Dutch for social control and revenue extraction but functioned simultaneously as sites of mediation and conflict resolution.

This project looks at the function colonialism inside out sri lankaof these institutions in Sri Lankan society from the inside. The meticulous Dutch bureaucracy produced census registers, church and judicial records that are unparalleled in their degree of detail compared to other eighteenth-century colonial empires. This unique material makes it possible for historians to capture everyday colonialism: while the serial nature of the sources allows for structural analysis of the people involved and the institutions at work, the rich data at the individual and family level enables a microanalysis of the indigenous experience. The detailed records of registration and dispute resolution reveal how colonialism could penetrate the household. By foregrounding everyday entanglements and plural practices this project turns the institutions inside out and develops a unique view of the lived experience of Dutch colonialism.

Recently, a spin-off project was awarded a Shared Cultural Heritage grant by DutchCulture: 'Towards a Virtual Slave Island (Kompannavidiya). Contested Space and Everyday Life in Colombo, ca. 1700 - present'. Through an online StoryMap, narratives and images from and about the neighbourhood's inhabitants from the 18th to 21st centuries will be made available for local citizens, heritage organisations and (Dutch) tourists.

lascorijns

Keywords

Colonialism, Sri Lanka, socio-legal practice, everyday life, VOC, colonial past

Results

  • Bulten, L.J., Kok, J., Lyna, D.B.G.W. & Rupesinghe, N. (2018). ‘Contested conjugality? Sinhalese marriage practices in eighteenth-century Dutch colonial Sri Lanka.’ Annales de demographie historique, 135(1), 51-80.
  • Lyna, D. (2018). ‘Ceylonese Arcadia? Colonial encounters in mid-eighteenth-century Dutch Sri Lanka.’ In P. Puschmann, T Riswick, T.G.M.W. Riswick & P Puschmann (Eds.), Building bridges: Scholars, history and historical demography (pp. 157-172). Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers.
  • Schrikker, A., Lyna, D. (2018). ‘Threads of the legal web. Dutch law and everyday colonialism in eighteenth-century Asia’. In G. Vermeersch, M. Van den Heijden & J. Zuijderduijn (Eds.), The uses of justice in global perspective 1600-1900, London: Routledge, 42-56.
  • Nadeera Rupesinghe (2018). ‘Navigating pluralities reluctantly: the marriage contract in Dutch Galle.’ Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions, 42/2, 220-237.
  • Nadeera Rupesinghe (2019). ‘Facing the law in eighteenth-century Galle.’ In G. Vermeersch, M. Van den Heijden & J. Zuijderduijn (Eds.), The uses of justice in global perspective 1600-1900, London: Routledge.
  • Nadeera Rupesinghe (2019) ‘Do you know the ninth commandment: tensions of the oath in Dutch colonial Sri Lanka.’ Comparative Legal History.
  • Nira Wickramasinghe en Alicia Schrikker (2019), ‘The ambivalence of freedom: slaves in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.’ The journal of Asian studies, 78 (3), 497-519.
  • Jan Kok (2020), ‘The thombo treasure. Colonial populations administration as a soruce fort he historical demography of early modern Sri Lanka.’ Australian economic history review, 60/1, 105-121.
  • Alicia Schrikker en Nira Wickramasinghe (eds.) (2020) Being a slave, histories and legacies of European slavery in the Indian Ocean, Leiden: LUP.
  • Alicia Schrikker en Nira Wickramasinghe (eds) (2020),‘Introduction: enslaved in the Indian Ocean.’ Alicia Schrikker en Nira Wickramasinghe (eds.) Being a slave, histories and legacies of European slavery in the Indian Ocean, Leiden: LUP.
  • Dries Lyna (2020). ‘Leven na slavernij en voor abolitionisme. Op zoek naar vrijgelaten slaven in achttiende-eeuws Sri Lanka.’ Nieuw Letterkundig Magazijn, XXXVIII (2020), 12-17.
  • Dries Lyna en Luc Bulten (2021). ‘Classifications at work. Social categories and Dutch bureaucracy in colonial Sri Lanka.’ Itinerario. Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions, 45/2.

IOW1819-Workshop series

This workshop series aims to bring together both junior and senior scholars working on the Indian Ocean World in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Financier

NWO Vrije Competitie

Contact

Dr Dries Lyna, dries.lyna@ru.nl