Tom G. HoogervorstSep 15, 2021
Indonesia's Chinese Print Entrepreneurs, 1911–1949
Cornell University Press 2021
Language Ungoverned: Indonesia's Chinese Print Entrepreneurs, 1911–1949 (Cornell UP, 2021) explores a fascinating archive of Sino-Malay texts – writings produced by the Chinese community in the Malay language – in Indonesia. It demonstrates the myriad ways in which the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia resorted to the press for their education, legal and medical advice, conflict resolution, and entertainment. Deftly depicting the linguistic choices made by these print entrepreneurs, Tom G. Hoogervorst paints a rich portrait of the social life of this community as well as the articulation of their aspirations, anxieties and concerns that were expressed in creative use of multiple languages. This vernacular press brought Chinese-inflected Malay to the fore as the language of popular culture and everyday life, subverting the official Malay of the Dutch authorities. Through his readings of Sino-Malay print culture published between the 1910s and 1940s, Hoogervorst highlights the inherent value of this vernacular Malay as a language of the people.
In this episode, we discuss the joys of reading for its own sake, distinctions between vernacular and standardized Malay, migrant experiences in language use and the importance of asking good questions when tackling corpuses of texts in the digital humanities.
Tom G. Hoogervorst is a researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). He is a historical linguist whose interests center on the Indian Ocean World and the author of Southeast Asia in the Ancient Indian Ocean World.
Faizah Zakaria is assistant professor of history at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. You can find her website at www.faizahzak.com or reach her on Twitter @laurelinarien.