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Nurturing Indonesia: Medicine and Decolonisation in the Dutch East Indies

Pols, Hans (University of Sydney)

978 1 108 42457 8
List price(s):
99.99 USD
75.00 GBP
87.53 EUR

Publication date:
9 August 2018

Short description: 

This examination of the formation of the Indonesian medical profession reveals the relationship between medicine and decolonisation, and its importance to understanding Asian history.

Full description: 

Hans Pols proposes a new perspective on the history of colonial medicine from the viewpoint of indigenous physicians. The Indonesian medical profession in the Dutch East Indies actively participated in political affairs by joining and leading nationalist associations, by publishing in newspapers and magazines, and by becoming members of city councils and the colonial parliament. Indonesian physicians were motivated by their medical training, their experiences as physicians, and their subordinate position within the colonial health care system to organise, lead, and join social, cultural, and political associations. Opening with the founding of Indonesia's first political association in 1908 and continuing with the initiatives of the Association of Indonesian Physicians, Pols describes how the Rockefeller Foundation's projects inspired the formulation of a nationalist health programme. Tracing the story through the Japanese annexation, the war of independence, and independent Indonesia, Pols reveals the relationship between medicine and decolonisation, and the role of physicians in Asian history.

Table of contents: 

Introduction: colonial dreams, national awakenings, and cosmopolitan aspirations; 1. Abdul Rivai: medicine and the enticement of modernity; 2. The enchantment of cosmopolitan science: student life at the Dutch East Indies medical colleges; 3. The Indies youth movements: progress, westernisation, and cultural pride; 4. Professional aspirations and colonial ambivalence: the Association of Indies Physicians; 5. The insults of colonial psychiatry and the psychological damage of colonialism; 6. The Great Depression: Rockefeller initiatives and medical nationalism; 7. Indonesian medicine in the Greater East-Asia co-prosperity sphere; 8. Medical heroism and the Indonesian revolution; 9. Medicine in independent Indonesia: national physicians and international health; Conclusion: the rise and fall of the national physician; Bibliography; Index.


Hans Pols is Associate Professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. He helped found the Indonesian Association of the History of Medicine (PERSEKIN) in 2009.




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