(Cancelled) Loyal Colonial Subjects? Dayak responses to the Japanese During WW2 in Borneo – a seminar by Dr Christine Helliwell (Wed, 22 April 2015)

Updated: 13 April 2015

We regret to announce that this seminar has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Speaker: Dr Christine Helliwell (College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU)
Date: Wednesday, 22 April 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

During WW2 in Borneo many more Dayak (indigenous non-Muslim) groups from throughout the island appear to have sided with the Allies than the Japanese, especially towards the end of the war. Many of the memoirs written by Europeans about the war take for granted the obvious moral superiority of the Allies and their cause vis-à-vis the Japanese, and so find this unsurprising; in addition, the image of the Dayak as loyal colonial subject who ‘hated’ the Japanese pervades – albeit often implicity – much of this literature.  Yet this stereotype overlooks the complex and ambivalent responses that many Dayaks had to both their former colonial masters and the Japanese.  In this paper I explore perceptions of the Japanese occupiers in one Dayak community in southwest Borneo. In this region, while Japanese soldiers were feared and ridiculed, they were also admired and emulated.  Support for the Allies rather than the Japanese can only be understood in terms of how each of these groups was accommodated within local models of relatedness and otherness.

About the speaker
Christine Helliwell is Reader in Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra. She has published widely in the area of social/cultural and feminist theory; much of her work is concerned with the inappropriateness of western analytic categories for the study of non-western peoples. She has carried out extensive ethnographic research in Indonesian Borneo; her ethnography of Gerai, ‘Never Stand Alone’: A Study of Borneo Sociality, appeared in 2001. Apart from her work (some with Barry Hindess) on the use of time in academic discourses of otherness, she is currently researching Dayak representations of World War 2, focusing particularly on representations of Allied and Japanese soldiers.