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History of Anthropology Newsletter
Volume 25
Issue 1 June 1998
The History of Anthropology in the Netherlands
Han F. Vermeulen
This paper is posted at ScholarlyCommons.
For more information, please contact [email protected]
Article 7
activities of particular individuals, institutions (including the WP A, the University of Texas
department and museum of anthropology, and the Central Texas Archeological Society), as well
as the TARL itself. Not included in this publication are inventories of 650 linear feet of records
documenting the projects and sites in the 254 counties of Texas, which will be in part later this
year through the Texas Historical Commission's Texas Historical Sites Atlas Project.
Julia J. Smith (New School of Social Research) is doing research for a master's thesis on the
early years of anthropology at the New School, and would greatly appreciate hearing of relevant
sources, or from people doing related research.
I. The History of Anthropology in the Netherlands
HanF. Vermeulen
University ofLeiden
The history of anthropology in the Netherlands and its former colonies in the East and West
Indies has been studied by many scholars in the Netherlands and abroad. Because there are no
research institutes and few postdoctoral grants available for the subdiscipline, conditions for research
are not optimal. Even so, there is an abundance of material, and a dozen doctoral dissertations have
been defended or are now in progress. A full bibliography would take up 60 pages of text, only a
selection of which can be presented here. Before discussing some of this material, a brief outline of
the history of anthropology in the Netherlands may help to set the stage.
Development of Dutch Anthropology:
Anthropology in the Netherlands developed in the wake of Oriental studies and in cooperation with geography and sociology. Relations with physical anthropology and prehistoric
archeology have been weak and are even today virtually non-existent. Similarly, sociology has also
been independent, particularly since the institution in 1963 of the Faculty of Social Sciences at
Dutch universities. From the beginnings, anthropology has had a strong regional orientation towards
the study of Indonesia. The first anthropological chair was established at the University ofLeiden in
Iand-en volkenkunde or 'geography and ethnography' of the Netherlands East Indies (1877). The
first four occupants were P.J. Veth, G.A. Wilken, J.J.M. de Groot, and A W. Nieuwenhuis (Heslinga
1975, Locher 1978c, de Josselin de Jong & Vermeulen 1989, de Wolf & Jaarsma 1991).
The study of the ethnography of Indonesia was closely connected with a training course for
colonial civil servants called Indologie, first given at an intermediate level at Delft (1843-1900) and
Leiden (1864-1891), then at university level at the universities of Leiden (1902-1956) and Utrecht
(1925-1955). In Batavia (now Jakarta), courses were also given in Indonesian languages, history,
geography, Islam, colonial and customary law, although generally the training of colonial civil
servants and lawyers took place in the motherland rather than in the colonies (Warmenhoven 1977,
Feddema & van den Muyzenberg 1978, Fasseur 1993).
In 1907 a chair in general volkenkunde was established at the University of Amsterdam, to
which S.R. Steinmetz, who had studied at Leiden, was appointed (Fahrenfort 1933, 1963; Kobben
1992, 1996). In contrast to Leiden and Utrecht, the students entering the curriculum at Amsterdam
were mainly students in geography, a situation that lasted until after World War II. After the
independence of Indonesia (1949) general ethnology was renamed 'cultural anthropology,' and
Indologie was transformed in 1952-53 into 'non-western sociology' or 'sociology of non-western
peoples' (Schoorll967a, 1970; Kloos 1988, 1989). Earlier described as applied anthropology (Held
1953, Schoorl 1967b, 1996; Jongmans 1976), and now recast as development sociology, "nonwestern sociology" developed in close connection with cultural anthropology, as departments that
combined both courses were established. This implied a fundamental change insofar as
anthropology, formerly only one of the subjects in the Indology curriculum, vvas now on a par with
non-western sociology, a transformed version oflndology.
In addition to those mentioned, chairs in ethnology were established at the Agricultural
University of Wageningen (1946), the Catholic University of Nijmegen (1948), the University of
Groningen (1951) and the Free University of Amsterdam (1956). Chairs in non-western sociology
were established at the universities of Amsterdam (1947 and 1965), Utrecht (1955) and Leiden
(1956), at Wageningen (1956), Nijmegen (1958), the Free University of Amsterdam (1962) and at
the Economic University ofRotterdam (1964).
Prior to World War II, anthropology was pursued not only at the universities, but also in
learned societies, specialized research institutes and ethnographical museums. Such museums were
established at Batavia (1836), Leiden (1837, by P.F.B. von Siebold, a German physician who had
worked for the Dutch in Japan), Delft (1864), Rotterdam (1885), Amsterdam (1926) and, more
recently, at Groningen (1968) and Nijmegen (1969). The history of these museums has been scantily
discussed, mostly in expensive volumes on 'masterpieces', but recently a trend to publish specialized
volumes on collections and collectors has become manifest.
The Historiography of anthropology (part 1):
The study of the history of Dutch anthropology (including non-western sociology) has
reflected these developments. During the nineteenth century ethnography was practised in relation to
Oriental studies (Boele van Hensbroek 1875) and to geography (Tiele 1884). But when during the
early twentieth century attempts were made to develop a general ethnology, founding fu.thers of
modem Dutch anthropology such as S.R Steinmetz (Amsterdam), J.P.B. de Josselin de Jong
(Leiden) and H.Th. Fischer (Utrecht) started to teach history of anthropology as part of their efforts
to formulate new paradigms. Steinmetz published a 'History of Ethnology' in 1917, followed by a
'History of Sociology'; van Eerde wrote a review of ethnological investigations in Indonesia (1923);
de Josselin de Jong located his subject within a genealogy going back to Linnaeus in his (second)
inaugural lecture on Indonesia as 'a Field of Ethnological Study' (1935) and distributed stencilled
lecture notes on 'The origins of scientific ethnology' among his students around 1938; Fischer dealt
with the history of ethnology in his inaugural lecture ( 1936) and in an encyclopaedia entry on
ethnology (1938); Schrieke (1948) published a report on scientific work done in the colonies during
the period 1918-43.
During the 1940s and 1950s the first studies on the history of Dutch anthropology were
published, dealing mainly with the subdiscipline of applied anthropology as practised within the
Indology curriculum. In 1944, the American Indonesianist Raymond Kennedy stated that the Dutch
East Indies civil service was 'the only official body in the world that has made the study of
ethnology, native language, and native law compulsory for all its staf(' and in 1945 Kennedy
That same year there was brief reference to Dutch
published a substantial bibliography.
contributions in Malinowski's posthumous Dynamics of Culture Change. A fuller account was
given by G.J. Held (1953) in a paper on 'Applied Anthropology in Government' presented at the
W enner-Gren conference in New York. Following a precedent set by Herskovits (1946) to associate
Dutch research with that in Belgium, A.A. Gerbrands published a overview of the situation in 'The
Netherlands and Belgium' in 1953, a linkage repeated two years later A.J. van Bork nee Feltkamp
(1955). The latter presented anthropology in the broad sense, including ethnology and folklore
studies, but concentrated on physical anthropology (a subject on which she had written a major
monograph in 1938; see also Constandse-Westermann 1983). Gerbrands published a more detailed
overview of cultuial anthropology in Holland (1959), which, significantly, was written in French,
reflecting Gerbrands' participation in the 'mouvement structuraliste' between Leiden and Parisalthough he mentioned all the other centers in the Netherlands as well.
The first serious review of the history of 'Cultural Anthropology in The Netherlands' was
published by P.E. de Josselin de Jong (1960), a successor to his uncle at Leiden. He pointed out that
the development of Dutch anthropology had been determined not only by a relationship with the
colonial state, but also by an intimate relation with Oriental, mainly linguistic, studies-a field
surveyed by G.W.J. Drewes on 'Oriental Studies in the Netherlands' (1957), which also carried a
'Selected Bibliography of Oriental Studies' by E.M. Uhlenbeck. In his later historiographical articles
P.E. de Josselin de Jong discussed 'the anthropological tradition in the Netherlands' from a
structuralist point of view, beginning with a paper for the 1968 Wenner-Gren Conference on national
traditions in anthropology, which (at the editor's suggestion) appeared under a quite different title in
1980. There he traced the origins of structural anthropology in Leiden to the work of van Hien, van
Ossenbruggen, Rassers and J.P.B. de Josselin de Jong, at the same time underlining the fundamental
importance of the work of Marcel Mauss and Emile Durkheim. Later publications included an
important essay on 'Marcel Mauss et les origines de l'anthropologie structurale Hollandaise' (1972);
and the introduction to de Jong's collection of translated essays on 'Structural Anthropology in the
Netherlands' (1977). These studies ofLeiden structuralism were complemented by Locher (1978ab, 1981,1982, 1988), vanBaal(l977, 1986-89)andJaarsma(1984).
Meanwhile, Henri Claessen and Peter Kloos, both from Amsterdam but working in Leiden,
had joined in an effort to make Dutch anthropology in general better known. With the financial
support of the Ministry of Education and Science they edited two volumes entitled Current
Anthropology in the Netherlands (1975) and Current Issues in Anthropology: The Netherlands
(1981). Both were published by the Anthropological Branch of the Nederlandse Sociologische en
Antropologische Vereniging and were distributed to participants at two international conferences
held at Amsterdam. A third volume was published as Contemporary Anthropology in the
Netherlands (1992). Each of the two volumes carried a number of thematic and regional reviews of
Dutch research, and was introduced by an historiographical essay by Kloos. one on the origins and
institutional structure of anthropology and non-western sociology in the Netherlands (1975); a
second (1981) on 'Themes ofthe 'Seventies,' in which he analysed 96 recent doctoral dissertations.
The 1992 volume was of a different nature, but had an interesting piece by Kloos on 'Anthropology
in the Netherlands: The 1980s and Beyond'.
In the mid-1970s, the close interrelations between ethnology and the administration of the
colonies also caught the attention of several foreign scholars (Hirano 1975, Koentjaraningrat 1975,
du Toit 1975, Ellen 1976), although a thorough critical study is not yet available. A serious study of
the transformation of the lndology courses was published by Kloos in 1989, which, however,
discusses only the outcome of the development and does not touch upon the intrinsic relations
between ethnology and Indology. A book on the history of the lndology training courses, written by
the historian Fasseur (1993), somewhat neglects the part played by anthropology in these courses.
Aspects of this relationship are covered in de Josselin de Jong and Vermeulen (1989). Since the
1970s, the interrelation of anthropology and colonialism has been taken up in a number of studies, as
we shall see in a later issue.
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H. Augustin (University College, London, 1996), "Anthropology and the rise of racial