Organized Panel Session
This paper looks at two moments of cultural-linguistic rupture in the birth and splinter of Dutch colonial Java’s “Chinese movement” (Chineesche Beweging or Gerakan Tionghoa) when large numbers of Chinese and Dutch civilizational loan words entered the Sino-Malay lexicon. The first, between 1897 and 1910, saw Confucianist concepts like Lee, Thian, To and Hao enter Sino-Malay via the borrowing of Confucianist concepts to counter the colonial-Christian critique of the Chinese in the Indies. And the second, between 1917 and 1925, when the Chinese movement splintered in two opposing groups, saw Peranakan intellectuals borrow Dutch words like politiek, social, and democratie in their debates over the question of Chinese representation in the colonial parliament. While Malay remained the primary language of communication, the Peranakan elites received Hokkian/Mandarin Chinese (1900-1910s) and Dutch (1917-1942) words and concepts from a higher civilizational registry, from which new creole cultural-nationalist idioms were coined.
Through a close reading of the key religious, political and philosophical texts written by two generations of reformist intellectuals, this paper compares the underlying discursive-lexical continuities with the ruptures in Peranakan discourse across the late colonial period. While scholars have previously framed the history of late colonial Peranakan Chinese politics as quests for political-institutional (Suryadinata 1981) and socio-political (Lohanda 2002) communal self-improvement, I argue that the birth of creole Chinese politics in Java was also marked by creolizing processes of ethnic self-determinism, within newly invented truth-justice paradigms.