- From Romanticism to Colonial Pragmatics: Malay Language and Literature Studies in Germany 1800–1945
- Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
- Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society
- Volume 84, Part 2, September 2011, No. 301
- pp. 67-94
- View Citation
- Additional Information
This article deals with the various approaches of German-speaking scholars towards Malay language and literature studies from c.1800 until the end of World War II. Early German scholars in the romantic age tended to impose their view of European peoples and cultures on the native populations of the Malay Archipelago. Thus, romantic notions of ‘folksongs’ or ‘original poetry’ strongly dominated the writings of this time, the majority of these authors being armchair scholars. In the late nineteenth century the first university chairs of East Asian studies were established; the most important were held by Georg Conon von der Gabelentz in Leipzig (East Asian Studies) and Adolf Bastian (Social Anthropology) in Berlin. In 1919 Otto Dempwolff became professor of ‘Indonesian and South Seas Languages’ at the University of Hamburg. Both Bastian and Dempwolff had travelled widely and had worked in Asia and elsewhere. Thus their data were based on personal observations and are still important works in the field of Malay studies. Finally, from the 1890s up to the 1930s a large number of Malay language books were published chiefly by and for German planters in Sumatra and Java. These books deliver not only fascinating insights into day-to-day conversation with plantation workers, but also social relations between planters and their workforce.