In order to investigate the many forms that the Indonesian War of Independence took, the Regional Studies project was set up: a joint project involving Indonesian and Dutch historians, in which space was created for an exchange of knowledge and historiographical perspectives by means of workshops and discussion meetings, including on terminology, and sometimes involving researchers from other projects.
The project aimed to establish a connection not only between the historiography of the Indonesian Revolution and the war of decolonization, which are strongly linked, but also between Indonesian and Dutch historians.
Explicitly, the project did not aim to compare different regions with each other, or the Dutch and the Indonesian use of violence. On the contrary, the aim was to reveal the layered and complex nature of the developments that took place at the time of the Indonesian War of Independence. In the course of the project, the researchers identified a common term under which the various themes could be grouped: ‘revolutionary worlds’. This was a reference to the myriad experiential worlds – collective but also individual, local and national, organized and unorganized; worlds that were populated and inspired by diverse groups and individuals in Indonesian society, in an era of great and profound change, all with their own interests, views, expectations and ideals.
The main focus was thus on the agency – the ability to act purposively – and experiences of diverse groups in Indonesia, in situations that were often extremely unstable, and in which various parties often tried to establish their authority by force and to get residents on their side.
In order to reveal something of these worlds, the researchers opted for case studies that focused on a range of themes and aspects in different regions: West, Central and East Java, South Sulawesi, Bali and North and West Sumatra. The expectation was that this selection would provide a good picture of the revolution as a complex of diverse processes and realities that, whilst intertwined with one another, were nevertheless shaped by different actors in different ways.
The project was carried out by Roel Frakking, Martijn Eickhoff, Hans Meijer, Ireen Hoogenboom, Anne-Lot Hoek, Anne van der Veer and Gerry van Klinken, in collaboration with the research team Proklamasi, Kemerdekaan, Revolusi dan Perang di Indonesia (UGM, Yogyakarta).