June 17, 2014 E-mail Interview with Barbara Andaya

Could you describe briefly your areas of research?

I was trained as a historian of pre-19th century Southeast Asia. My specific research field is western Borneo, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, but I have written articles and books covered the entire region. I also teach the modern period as well.

What were some of your motivations for writing To Live As Brothers?

I had written my Ph.D. dissertation on the Malay state of Perak in the 18th century, using Dutch East India Company (VOC) records and Malay chronicles. This was published in 1979. By 1982 I was looking for a research site where I could use those skills again for my second book. I knew that there was a Dutch post in Palembang and Jambi (east coast Sumatra) in the 17th and 18th centuries, and that considerable Malay court texts were available. I was also attracted by the idea of undertaking a comparative study of two neighboring areas where the history was intertwined – the “brothers” of the title – which would be something very different from my previous work.

What were some of the challenges in the writing or publishing processes?

The first challenge was gathering material, which took several years because of teaching obligations. I was fortunately able to spend nearly a year in the Netherlands working in the archives, and was able to purchase some of the Dutch records on microfilm. I also traveled to London to work in archives and libraries there. Some relevant Malay texts had been published, so that helped, but others had to be copied or simply read in the holding library. There were a couple of important documents in Javanese, which I don’t read, so I paid to have them translated. One has to remember that I began doing research in 1983, when the computer assistance and digital tools now available were simply non-existent.

The second challenge was collecting oral material in Jambi and Palembang itself, when my Indonesian was really tested because so many of the people who could relate their history spoke in local dialects. And the third and greatest challenge was working out a framework that would enable me to explore the culture values of Jambi and Palembang people as they interacted with Europeans in this period.

Although I approached a couple of publishers who were not interested, I was fortunate because the University of Hawai‛i Press was beginning to develop its Southeast Asia list and I had a wonderful experience working with them. The only difficulty was that I was living in New Zealand which had no email at that stage (1991-2), and all correspondence had to be by letter. It was also in the early days of computerization, so everything was on a “floppy disk” which also had to be mailed back and forth. I also learned that deadlines matter, because I missed my spot in the copy-editing cue when I was five days late with revisions!

Was there anything particularly exciting about those processes?

When I as researching my first book on Perak the most memorable aspect was turning the pages of enormous Dutch ledgers and seeing the sand that had been used to dry the ink trickle down into the margins – the documents had arrived in Amsterdam 250 years before, but no one had ever read them! I didn’t have the same experience with To Live as Brothers, because I think Dutch colonial scholars had looked at the material, but it was still exhilarating to handle the original sources. Undoubtedly, however, the most memorable part of research was traveling in Jambi and Palembang itself, up into the interior, trekking into the interior and travelling up and down rivers. So many Indonesians helped me — I’ll never forget their kindness as I listened to the stories of their past.

What were some of your motivations for providing open access to To Live As Brothers?

Very simple – it’s out of print now, but I am fairly sure that it will be a long time before anyone else goes back to the Dutch and Malay material with the idea of producing another book on the same period. In other words, this is likely to be the only available history of Jambi and Palembang for the foreseeable future. My only regret is that it is not available in Indonesian

What were some of the challenges in offering open access to your book?

There were no challenges at all – I just approached Ms Rohayati Paseng, and she organized everything with the wonderfully efficient UH staff.

Was there anything particularly rewarding about being able to provide open access to your book?

I was pleased when I saw your download statistics, since that makes me feel as if the effort was worthwhile. I was also intrigued to see the international spread of ScholarSpace, and delighted to see that 17 views/downloads were in Indonesia, since that is the audience I’d really like to reach.

I noticed that since your book was made available on ScholarSpace, in April 2014, it has been downloaded 115 times, with 22 views and downloads in Paris. How have you found the response from others to your book on ScholarSpace?

No one has responded yet

Do you have any other thoughts on the process of making To Live As Brothers open access or your experience with ScholarSpace?

Not at present! It all went very smoothly. I’d like to make my earlier book on Perak available too, since that is also out of print.

Learn more about Dr. Andaya at: http://www2.hawaii.edu/~bandaya/.

9 thoughts on “June 17, 2014 E-mail Interview with Barbara Andaya

  1. Pingback: Open Access & SEA Histories | The Center for Southeast Asian Studies

  2. Hey, I’m Ebon Talifarro, my class (8th grade) wants to interview you, would you have time to answer a few questions?

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    • Our blog is hosted by the University of Hawaii Information Technology Services department. If they were having network or server problems it might have caused slow loading. Those situations are usually transient and we hope you are not still experiencing the problem. Mahalo for your interest!

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  5. hi, you said: My specific research field is western Borneo, Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, but I have written articles and books covered the entire region. I also teach the modern period as well.
    I am from western borneo, do your research is collecting data from dayak people also ?

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