Christianity, Colonization, and Gender Relations in North Sumatra

A Patrilineal Society in Flux


In this book Sita van Bemmelen offers an account of changes in Toba Batak society (Sumatra, Indonesia) due to Christianity and Dutch colonial rule (1861-1942) with a focus on customs and customary law related to the life cycle and gender relations. The first part, a historical ethnography, describes them as they existed at the onset of colonial rule. The second part zooms in on the negotiations between the Toba Batak elite, the missionaries of the German Rhenish Mission and colonial administrators about these customs showing the evolving views on desirable modernity of each contestant. The pillars of the Toba patrilineal kinship system were challenged, but alterations changed the way it was reproduced and gender relations for ever.

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Sita T. van Bemmelen, Ph.D (2012), is a historian, academic editor, and freelance gender consultant. She has published numerous articles on gender relations in Indonesia, and co-edited Women and Mediation in Indonesia (KITLV 1992).
Preface and Acknowledgements
List of Illustrations, Maps, Graphics and Tables

1 Introduction

Part 1: A Historical Ethnography

2 The Construction of Toba Batak Gender
3 Customary Marriage
4 Fertility, Mortality and the Pinnacle of Life
5 Ruptures: Divorce and Widowhood

Part 2: Negotiations on Marriage Customs (1830–1942)

6 The Encroachment on the Batak World (1830–1883)
7 Negotiating the Future Social Order (1881–1885)
8 Engineering Christian Toba Batak Marriage (1866–1913)
9 Shifting Alliances, Revised Strategies (1892–1913)
10 The Secular Takeover (1914–1934)
11 Administrative Zeal Eroding Customary Marriage (1912–1942)
12 Dynamite Disputes: Mirror of Change (1923–1939)
13 Matching Partners (1920–1942)

14 Conclusion: Toba Batak after All

Archival Sources
Papers Presented at Batak Mission’s Conferences
List of Interviewed Women
Historians, anthropologists, Indonesianists, experts on customary law, gender and Christianity, interested in the interaction between colonizing forces and colonized people leading to changes in patrilineal societies.
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