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Colonial Bureaucrats, the Metropole and the making of the 1875 East Indies’ Land Alienation Prohibition

On Thursday 9 December, Dr Upik Djalins presented an online lecture, entitled 'The Colonial Bureaucratic Network versus the Metropole: The Origin Story of Land Alienation Prohibition in the 1870s East Indies'.

This was the last lecture of the semester as part of the Van Vollenhoven Institute's (VVI) lecture series 'Reconsidering the Socio-Legal Gaze.'

Upik Djalins is an independent researcher based in Maryland, United States. She finished her PhD at Cornell University, in the field of Development Sociology. Her dissertation examines the constitution of the agrarian regime as an integral part of colonial state formation in the late colonial Dutch East Indies. In her lecture, Djalins traced the genealogy of the 1875 Land Alienation Prohibition (vervreemdingsverbod) that prohibited the sale of land to non-natives in Dutch East Indies where almost the same prohibition is still applied in current Indonesian law.

Dr Djalins’ lecture was based on the collaborative work together with Professor Adriaan Bedner of the VVI. Using the method of microhistory, she explored not only the parliamentary debate on this law, but also traced deeply the personal backgrounds and networks of the key individuals involved in the lawmaking process. 'Not until I get access to Regerings Alamanak (Government Almanac of East Indies)I could find the individuals behind this [law] and when their faces put into the legal text, you see the three dimensional process and individual agency of these people', she told nearly 40 participants on the Zoom platform. Dr Djalins argued that the Land Alienation Prohibition was a response to the liberalization of the land market in the East Indies. The making of this law was only possible, she explained, because of the complex tension among the liberal factions in the Metropole and the clever use of the personal networks among the colonial bureaucrats.

After this semester's lecture series which focused on 'Colonial Foundations' of socio-legal studies, the next semester's lectures will focus on 'Future Horizons' of socio-legal scholarship in the context of three key values that drive contemporary scholarship: decolonisation, diversity, and development. Dr Mohsen Al Attar's lecture on 13 January, entitled 'Decolonising International Law: Entrapments in Praxis and Critical Thought', as part of Leiden University’s Diversity and Inclusion Symposium, will open the next semester’s lecture series.

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