“This book makes an important contribution to the literature both on Indonesian theater and on the cultural history of the Netherlands Indies around the turn of the twentieth century. It is meticulously and thoroughly researched and written in a clear, fluid, accessible style.”
Barbara Hatley, author of Javanese Performances on an Indonesian Stage: Theatre, Society, and Politics in Central Java
“Illuminating and impressive—we are in the presence of a scholar who can think large thoughts on the basis of many small facts he has gathered from a great array of sources.”
American Historical Review
Originating in 1891 in the port city of Surabaya, the Komedie Stamboel, or Istanbul-style theater, toured colonial Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia by rail and steamship. The company performed musical versions of the Arabian Nights and European fairy tales and operas such as Sleeping Beauty and Aida, as well as Indian and Persian romances, Southeast Asian chronicles, true crime stories, and political allegories. The actors were primarily Eurasians, the original backers were Chinese, and audiences were made up of all races and classes.
While audiences marveled at spectacles involving white-skinned actors, there were also racial frictions between actors and financiers, sex scandals, fights among actors and patrons, bankruptcies, imprisonments, and a murder.
Matthew Isaac Cohen's evocative social history situates the Komedie Stamboel in the culture of empire and in late nineteenth-century itinerant entertainment. He shows how the theater was used as a symbol of cross-ethnic integration in postcolonial Indonesia and as an emblem of Eurasian cultural accomplishment by Indische Nederlanders. A pioneering study of nineteenth-century Southeast Asian popular culture, The Komedie Stamboel: Popular Theater in Colonial Indonesia, 1891–1903 gives a new picture of the region's arts and culture and explores the interplay of currents in global culture, theatrical innovation, and movement in colonial Indonesia.
Matthew Isaac Cohen is senior lecturer in Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. His articles on Southeast Asian performance have appeared in New Theatre Quarterly, Asian Theatre Journal, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, and Archipel. As a practicing shadow puppeteer, he has performed in the United States, Europe, and Asia. More info →
Save 20% ($27.96)
US and Canada only
Availability and price vary according to vendor.
Permission to reprint
Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center
Based on ethnographic fieldwork spanning twenty years, Power Plays is the first scholarly book in English on wayang golek, the Sundanese rod-puppet theater of West Java. It is a detailed and lively account of the ways in which performers of this major Asian theatrical form have engaged with political discourses in Indonesia. Wayang golek has shaped, as well, the technological and commercial conditions of art and performance in a modernizing society.
Randai, the popular folk theater tradition of the Minangkabau ethnic group in West Sumatra, has evolved to include influences of martial arts, storytelling, and folk songs. Theater and Martial Arts in West Sumatra describes the origin, development, and cultural background of randai and highlights two recent developments: the emergence of female performers and modern staging techniques.
Resistance on the National Stage analyzes the ways in which, between 1985 and 1998, modern theater practitioners in Indonesia contributed to a rising movement of social protest against the long-governing New Order regime of President Suharto.
Moving beyond a traditional study of Polish dramatic literature, Taking Liberties is a masterful intellectual history of what may be called patriotism without borders: a nonnational form of loyalty compatible with the universal principles and practices of democracy and human rights.