Abstract

Globalization, understood as the process of absorbing people all over the world into one global network of economic and other ties, began roughly when Europeans started exploring the world through sailing the oceans (from the fourteenth century onward). The subsequent processes of colonialism and imperialism are stages in the unfolding globalization process. Technology made this globalization possible, but also developed in connection with it. This paper discusses globalization and technology development, focusing on colonial state formation and civil engineering development in colonial Indonesia, the former Dutch East Indies. Dutch East Indies state formation took place between 1800 and 1950, and civil engineering works were dominant in the technology involved. Dutch engineers in public service constructed 67,000 kilometers of roads, 7,500 kilometers of railways, many large bridges, modern irrigation systems covering 1.4 million hectares of rice fields, several international harbors, and 140 public drinking water systems in the archipelago. With these public works, Dutch engineers constructed the material base of the colonial and postcolonial Indonesian state. This paper shows that the case of Dutch civil engineering in Indonesia contradicts the idea that globalization implies a simple processes of diffusion from the West. Dutch East Indies civil engineering development appears to be a process in which Western technology had to be adapted to local natural, social, and cultural conditions, and was shaped by a variety of Western and non-Western actors. In addition, parts of this colonial technology diffused back to the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-3404
Print ISSN
1542-0132
Pages
pp. 32-64
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-26
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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