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Women and Malay Voices

Undercurrent Murmurings in Indonesia’s Colonial Past


Tineke Hellwig

Women and Malay Voices examines Malay literature by Chinese peranakan authors in the Dutch East Indies between 1915 and 1940. The narratives, some of them based on sensational murder trials reported in the news, offer insights into women’s lives and experiences and glimpses of female agency. With its primary focus on Malay texts and Asian women, this book offers a unique opportunity to hear subaltern voices and understand the lives of colonized women in new ways. Using feminist and postcolonial theories, this study juxtaposes the Malay texts with Dutch fiction and newspaper accounts to gain insight into how gender, race, and class are represented and what ideologies marked power relations in Dutch East Indies society.


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Chapter 4 Sara Specx: A Scandalous Love Affair in 1629 75


Chapter 4 Sara Specx: A Scandalous Love Affair in 1629 On June 19, 1629, a young man named Pieter Jacobszoon Kortenhoef was publicly decapitated in Batavia. Not long afterward a young woman, Sara Specx, received her punishment, a public caning of her naked body. Sara and Pieter had been lovers, but they were not married. Their acts of premarital sex were not condoned by the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC) authorities of Batavia, hence the capital punishment for him, and the public flogging for her. This chapter explores literary representations of the events surrounding Sara Specx and Pieter Kortenhoef, and the circumstances that led to that fatal day in June 1629. I first provide information about the historical context, based on a variety of Dutch sources and what they tell about the lives of Sara and Pieter. I then focus on three literary texts: the Dutch story Sara Specx by W.L. Ritter (1843), its 1926 Malay translation/adaptation Sara Specx. (Satoe kedjadian jang betoel di Betawi di djeman Pamerentahannja Jan Pieterszoon Coen dalem taon 1629) (Sara Specx. Something That Really Happened in Batavia at the Time of Jan Pieterszoon Coen’s Rule in 1629) by Tjoa Piet Bak (pen-name of Tio Ie Soei), and J. Slauerhoff’s Dutch-language stage play Jan Pietersz. Coen (1931). Because the historical events took place in the early seventeenth century, my reading starts from the premise that “[a]ny text that addresses the past offers, at the very least, a double exposure of history, representing both its selected...

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