Volume 125, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0040-7518
  • E-ISSN: 2352-1163


In 1928 Dutch physical anthropologist D.J.H. Nyèssen began a study of the racial characteristics of the Javanese. While initially he seemed a promising young researcher, his supervisors called off the project in 1930 because they now considered him a troublemaker with an ‘inflated ego’. Central to this article is the scandal that caused his demise. Nyèssen’s research practice, taking anthropometric measurements in the Javanese countryside and at an anthropological exhibition, caused unrest, and his attempt to set up his own anthropological ‘laboratory’ met with strong criticism. Because daily anthropological practices were now made public and rules and expectations articulated, this scandal gives us an insight in the role of anthropological science in the late colonial context. This article shows how the Dutch colonial government had hoped to demonstrate Dutch excellence in science but chose control over pursuit of knowledge when things got out of hand.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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