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Commanders and Subalterns: Foreign Capital, the Sugar Industry, and Farmers and Workers in Rural Java, 1931–59

G. Roger Knight and Colin Brown
Indonesia
No. 101 (April 2016), pp. 85-102
DOI: 10.5728/indonesia.101.0085
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5728/indonesia.101.0085
Page Count: 18
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Commanders and Subalterns: Foreign Capital, the Sugar Industry, and Farmers and Workers in Rural Java, 1931–59
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Abstract

This article is written against a nationalist historiography that insists on both an essential conflict of interest between foreign capital and the Indonesian national project, and also on the fundamentally undifferentiated character of the rural peasant mass and its interaction with mid-twentieth century developments. Articulated in terms of “commanders” and “subalterns,” this paper posits that commanders had a degree of common interest, albeit different sources of inspiration, while subaltern responses were not only profoundly disparate in character but also characterized by a wide-ranging degree of “subaltern” agency. At the same time, just to complicate matters further, the borderline between “commanders” and “subalterns” was significantly blurred and altogether more problematic than might initially appear.

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