chapter  6
33 Pages

The Tooth of Time, or Taking a Look at the "Look" of Clothing in Late Nineteenth-Century Aru

At the height of its power and imperial glory1-a moment that some in Holland still like to recall as a time in which "something great was done" (er werd watgroots vericht)2-the former Netherlands East Indies came to be refered to with increasing familiarity by the Dutch as an "emerald girdle" (gordel van smaragd). Although the immediate refer­ ent of this precious chain was the glittering band of glassy green is­ lands that trace out an arch(ipelago) across the great Malay Sea, a more fitting description could hardly have been found for the close link between conquest, clothing, and booty, or between the fashion­ ing of gendered subjects and imperial design. In studies of colonial­ ism, sexuality, and subject formation, much has been made of the capacity of cloth to embrace, shape, and subjugate persons and pop­ ulations-with special attention usually paid to the so-called "civiliz­ ing" import of European forms of dress and comportment (Cohn 1989; Murra 1989).