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Siew Min Sai
Title & Author
Representing the past of Chinese language education: Language, history and Chinese identities in IndonesiaSiew Min Sai
University of Michigan
This dissertation portrays twentieth century Chinese Indonesians struggling to find their place in the history of what is now Indonesia. The teaching of Chinese language has played a special role in their efforts. During the New Order (1966-1998), Chinese was banned and treated as a sign of immutable foreignness. In response, a restoration of Chinese language education has been crucial to Chinese efforts at cultural revival and challenges to reigning concepts of ethnicity since the fall of the New Order in 1998. Through its focus on Chinese language education this dissertation follows Chinese attempts to return from the margins of nationalist narratives. Part One of the dissertation begins after the 1998 regime change, when a Chinese language public emerged in Jakarta. Alumni from previously banned Chinese schools are the main leaders of this public and the educational revival. Examining nationalist narratives, historiographies, memorials, biographies, oral life stories and nostalgic commemorations, the dissertation demonstrates how these discourses are constituting a collective sense of a "Chinese-educated generation." This generation is resurrecting the past to orient this public toward an Indonesian future. Part Two investigates the period before World War Two, which forms the background to which participants in the current revival repeatedly refer. A regional context imagined as the Nanyang (Eng: South Seas) was critical to Chinese schools in the Dutch Indies. At the same time, a trans-border social world centered on schools emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as educators, administrators and students moved among them. The last chapter looks at Kwee Tek Hoay, a Chinese writing in Malay. He challenged what he saw as China-centered geography of Nanyang and sought to "localize" Chinese communities by writing about a dream school called the "Nanyang Institute" and composing a Java-centered history of Chinese language education. By treating the historical periods in reverse chronological sequence, the two parts of this dissertation show the variety of ways in which social agents craft and use representations of the past. In the process, the dissertation argues for a new approach to ethnic, regional, and nationalist historiography.
Social sciences; Education; Cultural anthropology; Bilingual education; Multicultural education; Language arts; 0326:Cultural anthropology; 0282:Multicultural education; 0279:Language arts; 0282:Bilingual education
E. W. Keane, Jr.
University of Michigan
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