This research looks into the publishing industry in the late period of the Netherlands Indies, including during the Japanese occupation. In the 1930s and the 1940s major international events took place – namely the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the commencement of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, followed by the Pacific War – which affected the Chinese in the Indies in significant ways, most notably their literary and journalistic productions. Up until the dawn of the Pacific War, literary and journalistic publications by the Chinese had dominated the Malay publishing market. After the war however, only a handful of Chinese publishers survived (17 out of approximately 55 press agencies resumed operation), and their total output was minuscule. My research investigates what happened to Chinese writers, journalists, and publishers in the 1930s and the 1940s Indies.

When Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, the Chinese press in the Netherlands Indies became vocal critics of Japan and its military expansion. This antagonism only intensified in 1937 when the second Sino-Japanese war broke out. Not surprisingly, once the colony came under Japan’s rule, most Chinese publishers were shut down, while many Chinese writers and journalists were intimidated, detained, even tortured.  A very small number of Chinese writers were permitted to continue working, insofar as they operated through official channels, and usually in exchange of doing propaganda work for the authorities.  This episode of history, however, has been scarcely studied, even as first-hand documentations of it are available in the form of journalistic and literary writings.  My research aims to bring together and examine all such primary sources from the 1930s to the 1940s in order to reconstruct the impact of this series of international events on the Chinese publications in the Netherlands Indies.

Elizabeth Chandra is an International Institute for Asian Studies—Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (IIAS-ISEAS) postdoctoral fellow.  She studied Southeast Asia and Indonesian/Malay literature for her M.A. degree at Cornell University (2000) and Ph.D. at the University of California—Berkeley (2006).  Since 2007, she has lectured at Keio University, Tokyo.  Her research interests include colonial literatures, comparative colonial histories, and the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia.  She has written articles on the literary works produced by the Chinese of colonial Indonesia (Indonesia no. 92, Archipel no. 82).  As a postdoctoral fellow, she will look into the Chinese literary and journalistic publications in the late period of the Netherlands Indies, including during the Japanese occupation.