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Rate this product:. Sponsored products for you. FREE Shipping. A growing population of migrant workers with weak ties to the estates and mini- mal possibilities for redress, still refused to submit to penal sanctions. Moreover, the public secret was out: Indies authorities were forced to reckon with and reform a labour system that the Indies, Singapore and European press insisted was blatantly abusive. But that was not all. Those sharp divisions between ethnic groups so familiar in descriptions of late colonial Indonesia — where Batak was pitted against Javanese, Gayo against Malay, Chinese against Javanese — were proving to be less clear-cut on the ground.

Instead they came upon encampments with material traces utensils, clothing, letters of hun- dreds of Gayos, Malays, Chinese, and Javanese hiding out together in makeshift shelters. To account for these, Valck had no ready categories on which he could draw. But distinctions of governance were not those in practice. The Aceh War was another.

In , after years of treaty negotiations between the British, Dutch, and Acehnese over the terms under which Aceh and the principalities to the south — the future plantation belt — would be made accessible to British trade while subject to Dutch sover- eignty, Dutch authorities mounted a military aggression against Aceh that was to last for some 30 years and to be considered one of the most destructive colonial wars. By the mids, as Dutch troops moved closer to their homelands, more Gayo faced the choice of submitting to Acehnese authority, sur- rendering to Dutch rule, or fleeing into the forests from both.

Valck and his contemporaries appear to have had only the vaguest notions of where these Gayos came from and with whom they allied. How did Valck and his fellow reporters know how to tell a Gayo thief in the night from an Acehnese dissident? Aware that his observations and actions would leave him open to criticism, he worries that his story would be deemed suspect and not believed.

His assessment is not off the mark. Believe me, Levyssohn! It was one thing to condemn the practices of low ranking civil servants. But his loyalty to Dutch authority at this point still remained intact. Convinced that he would be opposed for his actions by planters and government agents in their service, he believed the Governor General would commend him and not share in this condemnation. His declara- tion is righteous and sincere: The situation is untenable. Change must come and has started to come. It will take a great deal of my effort to bring this about. I will be thwarted, duped and slandered from all sides.

But I will not move from the honorable post given me by the Governor-General What happened to Valck and his letter?


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He was not destined for long in the civil service. Anatomy of a murder: revenge and blame On the night of 17 October , Valck learned that several members of the Luhmann family were murdered. He immediately telegrammed the Consul General in Singapore, asking him to forward his message to the Governor-General in Buitenzorg, presumably the quickest way to get his communication through.

He stated only the following; offenders four Gayos though mostly kampong [Malay village] peo- ple. Appears to be private retaliation in the affair, Malayan kicked by Luhmann. Also issue about clearing forest.

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As for political motive, There seems to be none. Many of them were recognized by Mr. He saw a pattern and his subsequent report told a story of violent retaliation extend- ing beyond the particulars of the Luhmann family murder alone. Browne walked around the house and found his sister lying on the ground. She was slashed in her neck, head, chest, stomach and both legs In the rather wide passage that formed some sort of indoor veranda, lay the body of the eldest child Johny about nine years of age.

With one cut, the head had been severed from the body. Next to him lay the corpse of little Marthe, about five years of age. The right arm had been severed almost completely from the body by a slash that had opened the chest The fifteen month old youngest child who slept there was left unharmed This gentleman, after helping to bring his sister inside, went to get Mr.

There were no less than fourteen, with one above both brows, one over the chest and one over the stomach seeming the most serious. The right hand was severed at the wrist. This man was in a complete bloodbath. Later, little Clara said that the criminals put her in a crate and hit her several times on her neck with the flat side of a weapon and threatened to kill her if she did not tell them immediately where the money was kept. As soon as did the criminals forced the strongbox open and she ran away. His description is gruesome.

Luhmann and Mr. Browne the attackers only injured the former in order to scare off he and his family so they would leave the house to allow [the assailants] free play in ransacking the house, which seems to me rather unlikely. According to them, Mr. Revening had been injured so terribly because he defended himself, while Mrs. Luhmann and Johny were killed because they knew many of the attackers, and they [the assailants] feared that later they would point them out as the offenders.

I feel that once blood had flowed, the tiger-[like] nature [tijgernatuur] characteristic of the Malay emerged and bloodthirstyness [bloeddorst] should be seen as the cause of the crime. By the manner in which it was committed, in a state of excitement, it is easier to excuse than the horrors [gruwelen] that are said to be done in cold blood by so-called civilized Europeans on their plantations to the helpless Chinese coo- lies, horrors that cannot be unknown to the Malay because they were committed over such a long period of time. He frames a scene of premeditated action and sensible revenge but attributes the crime and its viciousness to the atavistic nature of uncivilized Malays.

Racialized emotions structure his argument; hot-blooded native rage contrasts with cold-blooded and calculated murder by Europeans. His graphic narrative prepares the reader for his bolder claim: the interpre- tations offered by Luhmann and his brother-in-law were incorrect. It must have been directed at Luhmann because such excessive violence could only be a response to the violences perpe- trated by Luhmann himself.

He reports having received two communications: a telegram from the director of the powerful Deli Plantation Company about the Luhmann assault, and a letter from Commander Demmemi, citing Gayos as the perpetrators. Valck reports that he immediately left for the Soengei Diski estate but was prevented by flooded roads and ill-repaired bridges from getting any further than the neighboring Kloempang estate.

I asked Mr. Luhmann what the reason could have been for the attack on his plantation and for the murders of his family. The previous day he had even given money to some on the occasion of the end of the Mohammedan fast. Then I said to him that so far all the planters whose plantations had been attacked had given me the same assurance, except Mr. Droop who admitted having insulted a Gayo headman, that there were rumors [geruchten], however, about things that had happened on each of those plantations that in the eyes of uncivilized people would motivate retaliation, that I had to rely on those statements verklaringen and had to take measures accordingly; that those measures might have been wrong because of false information, and that the misery that struck them might have been prevented if the other planters would have told the truth; that I also heard gehoord something about him, Mr.

Luhmann, that could have caused the attack at his estate, because people had told me that he had kicked a Malay or hit him with a slipper, a fact that I had heard from a reliable person, who, in turn could point out the people who had told him. Rumors here are transformed into actionable evidence by a slight of hand. Valck underscores his argument by quoting his own words in conversation with Luhmann. He recounts how he reprimands Luhmann for withholding information, and with him all the planters. In response to Valck and in self-defence Luhmann recounts the following: that a certain Djamal from the Kloempang village who was labor crew leader of seven Battaks came to him on September llth to talk about the job of cutting some wood.

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Djamal had already received an advance to hire woodcutters. When he came to talk about the matter, more people were with him as well as the Battaks. They too wanted a similar contract. Luhmann was willing to pay thirty dollars per square but Djamal wanted thirty-five although the wood was small and easy to handle. Luhmann refused to pay the extra sum but finally gave in; then they refused to work at all. Then one of the Malays laughed at Mr. Luhmann who then kicked him, but as he states, without hitting him. According to a Malay version Angered, the man ran off, and Djamal said to Mr.

The next day Djamal returned to say that the man had complained to Mr. Luhmann should expect trouble soesah. In contrast Djamal, the Malay foreman, speaks in his own — albeit carefully excerpted — words. Perhaps because it supported both of their claims. A few days later, he [van Benthem] met one of the plaintiffs and asked whether the abused person had gone to Laboean, and was told that he first wanted to complain to the village head of Hamperan Perak. Among those who attacked the Luhmann plantation were only four Gayoes. Those men were employed with him since August 22 and no fault was found with their behavior except that they worked slowly.

Together with twelve Bataks and three Malays they belonged to the crew control- led by the foremen Deli and Saman, both from Kloempang. Finally Mr. Luhmann told me that a certain Datoe Gembang[27], head of the nearby village of Sala Moeda, might have had a share in the attack on his estate. Or does this exchange suggest that what was everyday fare for immigrant estate workers with nowhere to vent their grievances was not for those Malays from surrounding vil- lages and with more tenuous ties to the estates. The names of the foremen Saman and Deli do not surface again for another month.

Within a few days of his return, the attack took place. Whether Valck is quoting Luhmann is again difficult to tell, only signalled by a temporal shift as the narrative returns to the day of his enquiry and his own story: In the late afternoon [of October 18, ] the Radja Moeda of Deli arrived with a few Chinese policemen from the Sultan. Datoe Gembang was sent for immediately and came, with seven followers armed with swords.

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He declared that he knew nothing of the affair as he told Major Demmeni the previous day and very much regret- ted that it happened All those who had been employed by Mr. Luhmann and that lived nearby were arrested and on most of them traces of blood were found on their weapons and clothing.

It was curious that nobody seemed to have bothered to cover up the traces of the murder. No one covered up the murder because they did not want to. They intended for some people to know other workers, other villagers, other planters? Or perhaps it framed another plot. There was no cover-up because there was no need for one.


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The assailants were strong in number and well backed by a broader anti-planter sentiment. They simply had no fear of recrimination. Valck reads their blood-stained weapons one way. Other district officers, military personnel and some planters were to read it another.

What connected the Chinese coolies work- ing on the estate said to have played no part in this assault , Datoe Gembang from the village of Sala [Sialang] Moeda, those assailants allegedly from Kloempang, and the four Gayos? How did so many men of such diverse origin, domicile and estate engage- ment come together and under whom, and then dare not to hide their crime? Therefore, I still feel that revenge [wraak] was the cause of every one of the committed crimes.

Several categories begin to collide. Still, his belief in a collective threat to European security, based on patterned revenge, falls somewhere between the personal and political, anticipating his failed challenge to those categories. He first articulated this position a month earlier in September, when other government, military and estate personnel were blaming a series of attacks on the Droop, Peyer, and Baay estates on Gayo gangs in league with Aceh resistance fighters.

On September 6, Valck reported that Droop, the administrator of the Van Sluijs estate on the Babalan river, was physically assaulted by Gayos and much of the estate property was destroyed.

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Droop had recently hired a certain Panglima Laoet who, with his 27 men, had come to seek work. Several days later another 14 Gayos lead by a certain Radjah Petambiang were also engaged under similar terms. Hearing about this, Radjah Petambiang demanded that Droop give the same to every Gayo. The planter explained that it was a personal loan, refused and turned back to his house. Valck implies that the insult was not taken lightly. Droop was warned by an Acehnese living on the estate to beware of the Gayos and not to go out unarmed because Petambiang was out to kill him. Valck wrote: The Gayos appeared that night and began cutting through the plaited roofing when Droop fired his pistol at them four times.

Several Gayo were wounded and he was cut by a sabre across the hand This last part seemed strange to me right away, because if this was their intent it certainly would not have been necessary to first work for many days in row, they could have just killed him In both cases, Valck used it to confirm the sound reasoning of his own claims. According to my informant, the offenders were some of the Gayos working on the estates, who because of injudicious action by the administrator took bitter revenge on him and who afterwards disappeared to their own region without creating further disturbances.

It seems to me, there- fore, that this fact has no political significance whatsoever I have not yet received a report from the Assistant-Resident of Deli. Though unsure, based on rumors of possible insur- gence, he requests reinforcements for the 90 armed soldiers already stationed in Deli to protect the planters. Valck still resists casting the assaults as expressions of subversion. Instead he represents the Gayos as avengers not thieves. By now, Valck is more exasperated with the invocation of Aceh influ- ence and reiterates his own conclusion in no uncertain terms: I feel that no one with a trace of commonsense, after being informed of the above, will believe that Atjeh influence is behind those attacks and that everyone must agree that they have resulted from personal feuds.

Only the interested parties at the attacked plantations feel differently, unpleasant as it must be to find the blame put back on themselves or their subordinates. The truth of the matter later will become evident. We only agreed to leave a detachment with planters in the Langkat lowlands who were most afraid. This was merely done to calm the feelings of these gentlemen.

No government, no matter how well organized, no police force, no matter how diligent, no troops, no mat- ter how numerous are capable of securing the planters from attacks like those which have taken place. Fairness and justice toward their subordinates will always be the best weapons against them.

From accounts of preceding and subsequent assaults, two kinds of stories of white murder emerge that hold fast to stylized plots. Within this frame, the assaults could be understood in only one of these two ways: either as retaliations against an individual who happened to be European, or expressions of an orchestrated assault on Europeans tout court. Instead it cut across both categories with another scenario.

This was one in which the personal could trans- form into the political. Not surprisingly they met the affronts of the estate economy by challenging its order in varied ways. The categories available to most colonial officials constrained what they could envision as a possible plot. Bracketing these dichotomies suggests the possibility that rumour, arson, murder, and theft made up a gradient of responses that subverted the simpler logic on which planter assumptions were based. Suspending these dichotomies makes room for a more complex set of social and labor relations in which people more likely lived; not a world divided neatly between plantation and hinterland, personal and political acts, or crim- inal and revolutionary motives.

Drawn by this pull of power and opportunity, they enlisted in the plantation economy by varied means and exited with varied degrees of success. Gayo and Batak woodcutters did more than defend their due on agreed upon piecework. They redefined what their due was in mid-process, when the work was already in progress.

Murder was in the air. These were not old-fash- ioned categories of intelligibility but ones with sustaining power and weight. But in and , the terror of a European slaughter was never realized in Deli nor, as far as any sources indicate, ever really tried. Despite the relative detail of these accounts, it is still not clear whether Valck was unusually inept or an anti-hero that never happened.

When his suc- cessor Faber took over his job, he reported a disarray of prison legers in which he could find no records of the number of people in the prison, few dossiers detailing the length of their sentences, no listings of their crimes. Among the few dossiers Faber did find was one of a prisoner given a four month sentence but interned for over 11 months.

Considering the sheer quantity of reports that Valck filed in a matter of days the letter to Levyssohn alone remember was 30 handwritten pages , it is difficult to imagine how he had time to travel to far flung estates by horseback, do detailed interviews, write his lengthy reports, while making sure he did not leave unattended prison ledgers, court proceedings and the rest of his tasks on any single day.

Assaults caused by personal feuds or outside Acehnese agitation were disturbances that did not necessarily reflect badly on him. But, the most serious accusation was directed at his indiscriminate and persistent har- assment of the planters and for that he was considered to have been guilty of two reprehensible acts. Finally, he had misinterpreted the letter of the law concerning breach of coolie contracts. Fiction in the colonial archives These are not the luxuriant pardon tales of Fiction in the Archives from which Natalie Davis so finely drew out the cultural nuances of six- teenth-century France.

They are drier, formulaic documents — admin- istrative epistles, curt exchanges and lengthy monthly reports. They are the product of a state in expansion and of bureaucrats eager to be viewed favourably by their superiors, on whose judgment their sala- ries, positions and pensions would depend. They are careful to deflect attention from their own faults, find small flourishes that affirm their loyalties, pen again and again their investment in Dutch policy and its methods of rule.

Unlike the pardon tales, these stories categorically deny the voices of those they feared. It is not the Gayos who are privileged in these accounts but a representation of them as geographically and cognitively caught between the Aceh war and the muggings in Deli, economically attracted to the estate but independent of them, politically labile and possibly dangerous.

These storied reports were fashioned cultural accounts with politi- cal effects that precluded some conclusions and encouraged others. Exploring what made some more relevant and reasonable to their authors and audience opens to an ethnographic space of jumbled per- ceptions and agentive forms that could not be contained and tempered by coherent colonial narratives. Communications that depended on footsteps, horses, small boats, ships, and telegrams produced a coloniz- ing world that moved and responded with uneven and different pace.

The disorder of these stories and the reworking of their contexts push against historiographic convention. Students of colonialisms are adept at challenging colonial representations of authority by pinning their inventions, authenticities, and mannerisms to specific time and place. Our stance is often ironic, knowing and safely removed from the racial categories to which they were bound, to the sentiments they expressed, to the racial fears in which they operated.

Such readings presume more than we should about the schooled dispositions that their positions encouraged. The official mannerisms and manoeuvres around the Luhmann murder should make it no surprise how unevenly the con- ventions of categories were reworked on the ground. Sometimes politi- cal grammars constrained what colonial agents thought, sometimes they delimited the political idioms in which people talked, indicating not what they thought but only what they said. Anthropologists and their kin have long produced exemplary read- ings of ethnography as text.

What matters are the details of ethnography: who spoke to whom, who heard and repeated what or chose not to; who imagined what when and where. The accent is on the immediate and its juxtaposition with a colonial apparatus that was spare in Deli and still far away. The clues are in the objects of the everyday — how letters written in German find their way to a forest encampment where they cannot be read, a watch that remains untouched on a dresser while a child is slain. Then there are the words of Valck, buried and emergent between the reported accounts of others, pleading and plaintive despite a genre of official writing that professes to militate for reason and not more impassioned states.

It is a genre that leaves room for small mistakes, that lets slip desperation but that refuses to witness the pathos of excess, of remorse, blatant outrage, ethical wavering, divided allegiances, the expressed entreaty that one has been wrongly dishonoured, intention- ally silenced and blamed. It is these moments that prick the seal of colonial convention as they dislodge standards of protocol. It is these suspensions from the common sense that make room for subaltern inflections in stories retold in disquieted European voices, tangled by multiple meanings that fold awkwardly into the order of things.

Then — as now — they could not be easily read. An assistent-resident was a coveted post for a young man making his way up the ranks of the Dutch colonial civil service. Depending on the region, he might preside over the governance of a sub-region and thus several districts in a residency. In this case, because the Resident was stationed a long distance from Deli, and because the East Coast of Sumatra residency covered nearly 10, square kilometres, Valck was largely left on his own to manage Deli.

Verbeek was a prominent geologist in the investigation of the erup- tion of Krakatoa in No other correspondence with, or reference to, Valck had been found. For these references and most of the documents cited here, I thank Mr. Valck is never referred to by name, but the disruptive situation in Deli in in which he found himself overburdened and without sufficient police reinforcements is referenced by R. Broersma, Oostkust van Sumatra Batavia, ; H. Also see Schadee —19 , 16— AR, Mr.

Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast. Breman, Taming the Coolie Beast, pp. Among government agents were counted thirteen Europeans, Regeringsalmanak , p. See R. This debate went on for years, culminating in the landmark Coolie Ordinance, the first of many government regulations to harness workers for the development of the expanding mining and the estate industries. On the repercussions of the blockade, see Reid, The Contest, pp. Reid, The Contest, p. Olivier, AN, Mr. AR , Mr. His concerns are well-founded; a year later he is criticized precisely for that delay. Datoe is the term for a Malay village head.

The cold reception Valck received for accusations against the Deli planters may have had to do with his own past whistle-blowing in the administra- tive scandal in North Bali only four years prior to the Luhmann murder. Yet this is far from the case.


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As part of a larger project to reassess textual constructions of family and household by compar- ing these with records of material culture and domestic space, I found myself engaged in just such a search. I wanted to compare new uses of space and material culture to new ideas about private and public lives in colonial north India, to see whether textual rhetoric and visual rep- resentations told the same stories.

As his- torians we sometimes approach the archive as part of a single project of governmentality, rather than a continually evolving and incomplete body of information which itself reflected ruptures and debates. Antoinette Burton, among others, has maintained that in order to access this type of material it is necessary to abandon the traditional archive altogether, to expand our defini- tion of historical evidence and to seek out alternative source material.

I would suggest that the depth and variety of archival materials has been underestimated in some of these discussions, and that the colonial archive itself provides some of the tools required to critique lapses, ine- qualities and prejudice within official records. The colonial archive, as a historically constructed entity internally riven by a multitude of perspectives and false starts, disastrous encoun- ters as well as substantive exchanges, cannot be overlooked in building such a history.

The prejudices of colonial information projects do negate the impor- tance of these records as a source for social history in India — indeed, as I hope to demonstrate, Indian social and economic history could scarcely operate entirely without them. Diagrams and plans of houses and towns can be found in a number of different sources within the colonial archive, revealing the multifarious engagements of the colo- nial state with local social institutions. Revenue officers collected information on household composition and material culture in their attempts to survey Indian society as well as Indian economic structures.

By the later nineteenth century, famine commission inquiries, income and house tax surveys, and local censuses also gave rise to attempts to create typologies, each laying claim to hegemony over knowledge about Indian society. All of these information gather- ing efforts, however, provided new and novel information about Indian homes from the perspective of a unique inquiry.

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The multitude of sources, ranging from famine relief to industrial development to sani- tary engineering, led to different kinds of bias and produced distinctive data which provide, from within the archive, alternative perspectives on Indian social history. This essay will examine several different types of records which describe, define and prescribe Indian domestic space: correspondence from the s on housing for Indian regiments; debates and prescrip- tive texts from the mid to late nineteenth-century about domestic hygiene and public health produced by officials in the North-Western Provinces; and records of an urban housing project undertaken by the United Provinces government in to build affordable, sanitary housing blocks for workers and their families.

By examining records of material culture alongside texts from a range of sources within official- dom, I hope to suggest new ways of interpreting the colonial project, and to consider how the archive itself was continually evolving. The company army and cantonment life in early colonial India The East India Company based its initial claims to hegemony on its abil- ity to assume the obligations of the Mughal state, both militarily and in supporting dependant aristocratic households, government servants and soldiers — thereby becoming instantly embroiled in the minutiae of the lives of its pensioners.

The Company Army often acted as an intermediary institution in such exchanges, and indeed the only means through which the British could exercise control of Indian social spaces. According to Lt. Hardy, the Quarter Master General to the Bombay Army: The great change that has taken place of late years in the more settled state of the British dominions in this quarter of India renders the expediency of adopting a more permanent description of quar- ters The correspondents set out to redress the ills they perceived in Indian village planning, emphasizing parallel, wide streets, ventilation often one side of the house was to be left open , and drainage.

The privates, or sipahis, would then be responsible for putting up temporary partitions for themselves with a partial allowance. Regiments at several stations had already paid out of pocket for tiled roofs, which was taken as proof of their willingness to move to more permanent quarters. A uniform plan and elevation was drawn up which could be modified for use by the different stations of the corps. An entire regiment could be accommodated within a by yard lot, including space for wide streets laid out on a grid.

Huts would be built from wood frames, with brick walls, tile roofs and interior floors raised one foot from ground level. The details of the floor plans, materials and outlay were carefully graded and adjusted for each of the different ranks. Each of the presidency armies implemented similar cantonment plans, which would result in the construction of permanent quarters for Indian regiments in principal towns and villages across India. Regimental commanding officers were made responsible for reporting annually on the condition of the canton- ment buildings and on authorizing repairs or additions.

Most officers responded positively to the idea of permanent cantonments for their troops, putting forward medical and sanitary arguments in favour of the plan. The sheer bulk of the Military Consultations in the colonial archive support the primacy of the Company Army in the production of colo- nial knowledge and power. Maintaining the ritual status and autonomy of the sipa- his was a stated priority for the Company, but the free-standing huts apparently required to maintain caste are integrated into a plan of gridded streets and yards consistent with British ideas of orderly town planning.

In this case, information about the villages constructed using hutting allowances by sipahis and their dependents is conveyed even though it is not the focus of the report. The sipa- his themselves are mentioned merely as objects of the proposal, their assent tacitly assumed through anecdotal evidence. The plan was in effect a visual representation of the perfect sipahi, as well as a perfected Indian village.

Civic administration and reform in Indian municipalities Presidency governments became more involved in the organization and administration of Indian town and village life over the course of the nineteenth century. Whereas in the early years sipahi regi- ments and military cantonments had represented the bulk of official British interaction with Indian society, after the uprising the colonial government increasingly concerned itself with local surveil- lance and information gathering projects, municipal government, health and sanitation projects and public works.

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