Tanap Research

The Revolt of Prince Nuku: Cross-cultural Alliance-making in Moluku, c. 1780-1810


Dr Muridan S. Widjojo

curriculum vitae


In the late-eighteenth century, Eastern Indonesia faced one of its most severe political crises of the pre-modern era. At the centre of this crisis was a prince of the sultanate of Tidore, Nuku, who had been rejected as sultan. The resistance movement of discontent islanders, radja's (local chiefs) and sea pirates he created against the leading Tidorese aristocracy and its ally, the VOC, led to a deep split in Moluccan societies, from the clove islands to Kei and Aru in the far south.

Looking at the overall course of this upheaval, the general research problem arises whether some parts of the Moluccas were actively engaged in Nuku's resistance movement and some other parts were not. It seems that the late eighteenth-century divisions went beyond the traditional divisions between Ternate and Tidore, pro- and anti-Dutch factions, or the ancient division between the 'brotherhood of nine' (ulisiwa) and 'brotherhood of five' (ulilima).

The aim of this research is to study political alliance making in its local, regional and intra-regional context; at the level of the village, the island, the indigenous polity or sultanate, and VOC dominion over the region. The research is also to investigate the motives of both Malukan leaders who played roles in the Nuku revolt and those who continued their alliances with the VOC. Beyond this dichotomy, the neutral groups who were passive are also investigated. Looking for the motives, the growing importance of alternative trading networks-the Dutch labelled them as smuggling and pirating activities-as one resource of economic power and the prevailing cultural and ideological aspects as another resource of power legitimacy may be in the center of the analysis. Furthermore, these questions will be related to the existing historical and anthropological theoretical debates concerning a) the power relation in rebellion movements and colonialism; and b) the relation between culture as ideological phenomenon and culture as social practice.

Click here for Muridans' voyage to the world of Prince Nuku





Dr. Gerrit J. Knaap


Prof. Dr. Adrian Bernard Lapian

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