Ethnogenesis in Colonial Period Banda Islands, Indonesia


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Grants to Individuals in East and Southeast Asian Archaeology and Early History Dissertation Fellowships (North America)




This dissertation investigates the process of ethnogenesis in a colonial context in the Banda Islands, Indonesia. The Banda Islands were the world’s sole source of nutmeg before the eighteenth century; consequently, the Banda Islands were a location of early disputes and colonial experimentation. After a bloody conquest, the Dutch East India Company established a plantation system in 1621 on the islands. The Banda Island plantation system was an early experiment in mercantile colonialism with imported enslaved workers, company-provided subsistence rations, and a company monopoly on the spice trade inhibiting the accumulation of capital. How multiple non-indigenous populations were able to create a society on an isolated group of islands within a greater capitalist world system, which they were actively discouraged to join, is main focus of this dissertation. Due to its focus on material culture, archaeology has the potential to contribute to our understanding of how “people without history” negotiated imposed culture contact and disparate power relations in colonial contexts. By using multiple lines of evidence to create multiple working hypotheses, this project identifies the major social or economic influences on the process of ethnogenesis in the Banda Islands.