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Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

Zentrum Geschichte des Wissens

Universität Zürich

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich

MONIQUE LIGTENBERG

Medicine, Masculinities, and Colonial Warfare: German-speaking Physicians and Trans-imperial Knowledge Production in the Dutch East Indies (c. 1873-1914)


The research project deals with German-speaking physicians who joined the Dutch Colonial Army (KNIL) as medical officers at the end of the 19th century. Due to the acute shortage of personnel in the KNIL, the Dutch colonial government recruited volunteers from all over Europe. Recruits of German, German-Swiss and Austro-Hungarian origin constituted a majority of the entire Medical Corps (Militair Geneeskundige Dienst) at times. As "Tools of Empire", they ensured the survival of the troops, thereby actively participating in the military conquest of the Malay Archipelago.  Furthermore, a considerable number of German-speaking medical officers dedicated themselves to researching the tropical Dutch colony after ending their service. Thus, they contributed to (highly topical) production of knowledge about the flora, fauna and pathogenicity of the so-called "tropics" around 1900.

The dissertation focuses on these hitherto nearly unexplored military and scientific entanglements between Central and Northern Europe and Southeast Asia. On the one hand, it ties in with recent efforts in historiography to understand colonialism and imperial conquest not as a project of individual nation states, but as a transnational, pan-European endeavour. On the other hand, it contributes to the "provincialization"  (Chakrabarty) of European history of knowledge by shedding light on the significance of non-European spaces, knowledge cultures and subaltern actors in the knowledge production around 1900.