Locations of Theological Anthropology in Indonesia

A Postcolonial Literary Offer in Max Havelaar


  • Toar B. Hutagalung Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary




Max Havelaar, literatuary criticism, orientalism, postcolonial/decolonial analysis, theological anthropology


Colonization takes over many dimensions of life, e.g., theology, economy, history, and the idea of humanity itself (anthropology). In Indonesia, colonization by the Dutch Empire has been determining the life of the Indonesian people since the eighteenth century. The twin gazes, namely of the European orientalists and of the colonized natives, have colluded to maintain certain ruptures in the mentality of the common Indonesian person, including how they treat other human beings. Such a malforming situation is obscured from historical analysis, given what history’s very construction owes to colonial influence. To retrace a more affirming and dignified history, I look elsewhere than the formal record and, by doing so, propose that such a decolonial task lies in availing contemporaneous literary works. In this essay, I present an analysis of the colonial-era novel Max Havelaar, wherein I parse the hidden historical archive offered both in and by the text. Through this analysis, I consider how such an alternative archive affects one’s theological imaginary and promotes the (re)construction of a theological anthropology that escapes the confinement of the white Western orientalist gaze.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Toar B. Hutagalung, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary

Toar Hutagalung received his PhD in Theology from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 2021. He graduated with a Master of Arts (MA) in Theological Research from Andover Newton Theological School in 2013 and a Bachelor of Science in Theology from Jakarta Theological Seminary in 2010. Along with other articles, he has written a chapter titled “The Motherly Spirit: A Geotheological Power of Life in Papua,” in Resisting Occupation: A Global Struggle for Liberation, which will be published in fall 2021 by Lexington Books/Fortress Academic Press. In addition, he is the Chair Person of the Asosiasi Teolog Indonesia (Association of Indonesian Theologians).


Abrams, M. H. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1973.

Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. Abingdon, OX: Routledge Classics, 2004.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Cone, James H. Black Theology and Black Power. 3rd ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2018.

Encyclopædia Britannica. “Romanticism.” https://www.britannica.com/art/Romanticism.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 1986.

Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vol. 1. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

Gandhi, Leela. Postcolonial Theory: A Critical Introduction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Hall, Stuart. “Introduction.” In Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Ed., Stuart Hall. London: Sage, 1997.

Haynes, Stephen R. Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Jones, Serene, and Clark M. Williamson. “What’s Wrong with Us? Human Nature and Human Sin.” In Essentials of Christian Theology. Ed., William C. Placher. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Mangililo, Ira D. “Imago Dei: Sebuah Upaya Membaca Alkitab Sebagai Perempuan Indonesia dalam Konteks Perdagangan Orang di Nusa Tenggara Timur.” Indonesian Journal of Theology, Vol. 5, No. 2 (2017): 147-177. https://doi.org/10.46567/ijt.v5i2.23.

Migliore, Daniel L. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004.

Mignolo, Walter D. Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

Mignolo, Walter D., and Catherine E. Walsh. On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

Multatuli. Max Havelaar. Trans., Ingrid Dwijani Nimpoeno. Bandung: Qanita, 2019.

_______. Max Havelaar. of de koffi-veilingen der Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappy. Amsterdam: J. de Ruyter, 1860.

_______. Max Havelaar: Or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company. Trans., Baron Alphonse Nahuÿs. Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, 1860.

Niekerk, Carl. “Rethinking a Problematic Constellation: Postcolonialism and Its Germanic Contexts (Pramoedya Ananta Toer/Multatuli).” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 23, No. 1 & 2 (2003): 58-69. https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-23-1-2-58.

Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

_______. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

Salverda, Reinier. “The Case of the Missing Empire, or the Continuing Relevance of Multatuli’s Novel Max Havelaar.” European Review, Vol. 13, No. 1 (2005): 127-138. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1062798705000128.

Sinaga, Martin L. Identitas Poskolonial “Gereja Suku” dalam Masyarakat Sipil: Studi tentang Jaulung Wismar Saragih dan Komunitas Kristen Simalungun. Yogyakarta: LKiS, 2004.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Toer, Pramoedya Ananta. “Best Story; The Book That Killed Colonialism.” The New York Times Magazine. April 18, 1999.

Zook, Darren C. “Searching for Max Havelaar: Multatuli, Colonial History, and the Confusion of Empire.” MLN, Vol. 121, No. 5 (2006): 1169-1189. doi:10.1353/mln.2007.0021.



How to Cite

Hutagalung, T. B. (2021). Locations of Theological Anthropology in Indonesia: A Postcolonial Literary Offer in Max Havelaar. Indonesian Journal of Theology, 9(1), 93-124. https://doi.org/10.46567/ijt.v9i1.190