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Racial and economic influences in the Malay-language press coverage of the anti-Chinese riot in 1918 Kudus, Java Carkner, Daniel

Abstract

An examination of the Malay-language press coverage in the Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia) following the Kudus riot of October 31, 1918. This riot, an attack by indigenous (bumiputra) townspeople against the long-established Chinese population following a brawl on October 30, caused half of the Chinese population to flee the town and led to mass arrests of indigenous townspeople and political leaders by the Dutch authorities. Previous work on the Kudus riot has explained it as the result of economic competition between Chinese and indigenous businesses. Less attention has been given to how the riot was interpreted by the wider racial communities of the Dutch East Indies in the aftermath. This thesis compares a large body of the Kudus riot coverage in Malay newspapers in the weeks after the riot and examines how the newspapers' editorial lines shifted in November 1918, from an initially cautious phase where the Malay papers simply reprinted Dutch content, to a phase where the papers sought out credible correspondents or spokespeople from their own racial group, to a final phase of aggressive criticism of other editors and their interpretations of the riot and arrests. The four main papers being examined represent distinct positions on the Chinese and indigenous sides: Sin Po (nationalist Chinese), Djawa Tengah (moderate Chinese), Neratja (moderate indigenous), and Sinar Hindia (nationalist indigenous). After comparing the coverage in those papers, the thesis examines cases of outsider figures who worked for newspapers owned by other racial groups as well as the efforts by some editors and community officials to establish and promote Chinese-indigenous “friendship meetings” as a way to prevent future outbreaks. The thesis establishes some of the limits of expression in the newspapers of the time due not only to the poor relationships between racial groups and the threat of arrest under Dutch censorship laws, but also seeks out examples of cosmopolitan ideas and awareness of a common colonized status shared by both Chinese and indigenous.

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