Epistemic Imposition: Problematising The Cross-Appropriation of Building Practice in Java, Indonesia (1901-1942)

Setiadi, David Hutama (2021). Epistemic Imposition: Problematising The Cross-Appropriation of Building Practice in Java, Indonesia (1901-1942). PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001384a


The enactment of the Ethical Policy in 1901 changed the nature of the relationship between the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indie (now Indonesia). One of the notable shifts that occurred was the growing demand for technology and technical skill throughout the archipelago. The proliferation of plantations and other industries increased the need to have more technicians who were able to comply with the Dutch regulations and standards. Consequently, this new gap in the workforce initiated an unprecedented migration of skills and practices to the Dutch East Indies.

This doctoral dissertation intends to investigate the scope of the interventions realized by the Dutch colonial agenda in relation to existing Javanese building practices. Two main lines of investigation underpin this research. The first is to examine the methods of dissemination of Dutch technical knowledge and skill across the archipelago. The second goal is to scrutinise the effects of this dissemination upon the formation of architectural knowledge and practice within the colony. I define the following acts of disseminating building knowledge as an epistemic imposition - an instrument of Dutch colonial power.

The dissertation will comprise of four chapters (excluding the Introduction and Conclusion). The first chapter aims to set the grounds of the thesis by elaborating a particular situation both in the Netherlands and Java that was effectively an agency for the dissemination of Dutch architectural knowledge and practice in the colony. The subsequent three chapters will specifically discuss the three agencies to Javanese building practice as part of the endeavour of establishing a new model of architectural practice in the colony. The second chapter aims to focus on the educational institution established, the third chapter will discuss the role of architects in creating architectural discourse in the colony, and the fourth chapter focuses on Dutch endeavours in establishing a sense of home in the Dutch East Indies.

Throughout this thesis, I will argue that the Dutch epistemic imposition in a form of technical knowledge and skill dissemination as not entirely successful. Lack of understanding in local building culture and climatic constraint of the archipelago had created a cross-appropriation of building practices between both parties.

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