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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 6 Hermine Tan: A Western-Educated Woman 127


Chapter 6 Hermine Tan: A Western-Educated Chinese Woman Tan Giok Nio, also known as Hermine Tan, was born in Salatiga, Central Java, on September 28, 1898. She was the youngest of two daughters of Tan Djin Gie and Gan Sim Nio. She would be just another unremarkable young woman of peranakan/Chinese descent, an individual who would have disappeared from history, were it not that her name was to be used and abused by male writers of Malay literature. Twenty years after her birth, three Malay novels, by Chabanneau, K.Kh. Liong and Tjermin respectively, allegedly revealed aspects of Hermine’s private life. Their purpose seemed to be to drag her name through the mud. In 1918 Chabanneau published the three-volume Rasia Bandoeng atawa satoe pertjintaan jang melanggar peradatan “bangsa tiong hoa.” Satoe tjerita jang benar terdjadi di kota Bandoeng dan berachir pada tahon 1917 (The Secret of Bandung, or A Romance Which Violated Chinese Custom. A Story that Really Happened in Bandung and Ended in 1917). In the same year K.Kh. Liong’s two-volume Tjerita Nona Tan Seng Nio alias Hermine T…, atawa tjara bagimana orang toewa haroes didik sama anaknja. Satoe tjerita jang betoel soedah kedjadian die Bandoeng, dalem tahoen 1912 dan berachier tahoen 1917 (The Story of Nona Tan Seng Nio, a.k.a. Hermine T…, or How Parents Should Raise Their Children. A Story That Really Happened in Bandung in 1912 and Ended in 1917)1 and Tjermin’s Rasianja satoe gadis hartawan (The Secret of a Wealthy Girl) came out. They turned...

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