Assimilation vs. Multiculturalism: Indos Return to Holland

The Indische (or Indos) were always going to stand apart. We know they were "different" in Indonesia; Europe might not be much different, indeed. We know they stood out. Muchly. And those were racial times. And don't think the anti-Colonialist fervor in the colonies did not have counterpoints from reactionary "old Europe" Nationalism. Albeit those were small, vocal segments of the Dutch population.

The "Eurasians" couldn't stay in their "homeland" of the Dutch East Indies, for now it was a newly independent, Indonesia. Save for a few of them, staying was politically unfeasible. Going, was the only option- the strangest thing was they they were "going home," to a place many of them had never been to. 

The sociologist, Topaas de Boer-Lasschuyt, based upon her 1958 field study Eurasian Repatriates in Holland, advocated that Eurasians not be forcefully assimilated. The specific term they used backed then was "pillarized." One thing to keep in mind on the topic of Newly returned Indos to Holland is that during "repatriation" in the 1950's, assimilation (pillarization) was the only way. Even the Dutch Queen got involved. The Dutch were going to absorb these people, one way or another. The task was simple, at least conceptually: remake the Indos into post-War Dutch. 

De Boer-Lasschuyt describes the social situation at the time as such:

"This frustration [after the loss of sovereignty] has caused two extreme ways of

thought in Holland, (a) a feeling of guilt for the fact that Holland once was a

colonial power with all the immoral consequences thereof, (b) a feeling of

complete reaction—a wishing and longing for the return to the good old times

which with a few alterations and harmless modernization, would offer a far

better solution [both] for the Dutch and for the "natives." Since the final handing

over of the Sovereignty to Indonesia supporters of both extremes have one trait in

common: they dislike to be remembered [sic] of the colonial past. This is one of

the difficulties Repatriates and especially the Eurasian Repatriates are faced

with in Holland."

There were riots in the Hague in June of 1958, between Dutch and Eurasian youth, the tensions bubbling over between Eurasians frustrated with pillarization and a resentful, world-weary white Dutch. To place the Eurasian thinking into some context- remember that they came from privilege- in Batavia, and other outposts in the colony. They were administrators, bureaucrats, doers and the local glue, and/or the local lubricant- colonial semiconductors, available for whatever was necessary to make the system work- and that had value. It was value enough to guarantee a spot above the teeming underclasses of locals. They went from that, to slipping down-rung in social stature as the power relations shifted- and soon to be punished, as Indonesian majority rule and decolonization gathered steam. Furthermore, they took it from the other side, when they "repatriated" (a euphemism for getting kicked out) , as we have discussed. 

If you live by the sword, you die by the sword, as the aphorism goes. Eurasians benefitted on both sides when the timing was favorable, in fact they benefitted greatly from the entirety of the colonial enterprise (don't assume they were an underclass back then). Though, they did get screwed over by both sides when the time was unfavorable. 

This all brings Tjalie Robinson's achievements into focus. We can understand why his advocacy for multiculturalism was bold- because so many forces were arrayed toward replacing an "alien" way (in this case the Eurasian one) with a static Dutch Thinking. One of Tjalie Robinson’s most oft-quoted statements goes as follows: "I did not care that people wanted to call me ‘neither fish nor fowl,’ and wanted to label me, an Indo, either Indonesian or Dutch. For them I just had to choose between the two, right? Nevertheless, I stubbornly named the turtle as ‘neither fish nor fowl,’ and praised this animal as a unique, land-and-sea-lover who lives to very old ages, whose meat has an excellent taste, and who cuts through oceans from continent to continent. I said, ‘Just as I do not find the turtle inferior, although he is neither fish nor fowl, I do not think the Indo inferior. And that is the end of it![i]{C}" He had this flair, and this handle on the issues. The contradiction, the idea of this turtle, has something timeless, something universal to it and is attractive to a “mixed” person, wherever you are, or however you define yourself. 


[i] "Tjalie Robinson." Amerindo: A Portal for the Dutch Eurasian Indo Community in the United States. UC Berkeley, Web. 28 Apr. 2013. <>.