From Colonialism to Fairtrade : Power Struggles Between Indonesia and the Netherlands Through the Perspective of Coffee

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Arkeologi

Abstract: Since coffee was first introduced to Indonesia by Dutch merchants in the late seventeenth century, power relationships have shifted as a result of coffee trade between Indonesia and the Netherlands. In this thesis I analyse changes and recurrent themes in the struggles around coffee, structured around three main narratives spanning over 300 years: colonialism, Indonesian independence, and Fairtrade. The time-frames are chosen on the basis of significant development in the socio-economic and socio-political environment in the Indonesian coffee industry. The first narrative depicts the link between the Max Havelaar novel and the Max Havelaar Foundation, which sets the scene for bridging past and present in the triangular drama between coffee, colonialism and the Dutch-Indonesian relationship. In the second narrative, I will look at the history of relationships between Indonesia and the Netherlands, from the perspective of coffee. The inclusion of the lens of a feature or commodity, like coffee, provides a new approach to the Dutch-Indonesian history. The third narrative entails a discussion on the coffee supply chain, its environmental impact, and the price volatility that characterises the global coffee market. Additionally, the rise of sustainability certifications in the coffee sector are discussed, in relation to its impact on the Indonesian coffee industry. Finally, the three narratives come together in a final discussion, in which I reflect on the history of power struggles that arose from coffee trade between Indonesia and the Netherlands. The chapter links past and present by revealing similarities in the contest for power during colonial times and modern times in the Indonesian coffee industry.

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