Precarious power, forts and outstations: indigenisation, institutional architecture and settlement patterns in Sarawak, 1841 - 1917
AuthorTing, John Hwa Seng
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
MetadataShow full item record
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusNo attached file available
© 2014 Dr. John Hwa Seng Ting
The significance of the institutional architecture and settlement patterns of Sarawak’s Brooke Raj (1841-1941) has been established in the fields of history, geography, economics, political science and anthropology. However, Malaysian architectural historiographies have largely ignored these buildings and settlements, instead conservatively focussing on colonial and contemporary architecture in Peninsula Malaysia’s major centres or on the nation’s indigenous architecture. These national historiographies present a conservative, narrow and exclusive view, where Sarawak is peripheral. This thesis begins to broaden the scope and methodology of Malaysian architectural history. It investigates Sarawak’s forts and outstations established between 1841 and 1917, for which no significant architectural research has yet been done. It employs interdisciplinary strategies which have been resisted by many Malaysian architectural historians. The aims are to interrogate the effect of the Raj on precolonial architecture and settlement patterns, the extent to which indigenous, migrant and colonial approaches were combined to produce buildings and settlements and the contribution of European, indigenous and regional migrant groups in the production of government forts and outstations. Two case studies have been selected: the Skrang fort and outstation (1849, the first to be established outside Sarawak’s original area), and Simanggang, where the Skrang fort and outstation was relocated to in 1864. Research methods include fieldwork in Sarawak’s capital and outstations, and archival research. The demolished or degraded state of the case study buildings, the incomplete nature of relevant archives and the paucity of conventional architectural information (such as plans, sections and elevations) have required the employment of historical ethnography approaches in conjunction with architectural conservation methods to analyse the data collected. The thesis’ interdisciplinary approach is informed by a postcolonial conceptual framework that draws on critiques of power, the role of subaltern groups, dialogic relationships and hybridity. The thesis demonstrates that the negotiated and precarious nature of the Raj’s governance is evident in the way that the Skrang and Simanggang outstations were designed, procured and implemented. The Raj negotiated social relations with indigenous and regional migrant groups in a dialogic way to govern and modernise the state as it was not supported by Great Britain. The thesis reveals that these relationships affected the production of institutional buildings and settlement patterns in the state, where the contributions of subaltern indigenous and migrant groups are physically evident in building materials, architectural form and construction details. The government hybridised modern naval construction and prefabrication methods with the traditional building practices in fort architecture. The hybrid social and political processes employed by the government changed existing regional migrant and indigenous architecture and settlement patterns. Research findings suggest that while Sarawak’s forts and outstations did not follow the same sense of rational order evident in European colonies elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Raj’s institutional architecture and settlement patterns conformed to their own standardised system. Despite the Raj’s timber buildings being considered impermanent by Europeans, their survival beyond the lifespan of many masonry buildings in the Straits Settlements challenges the attributes of permanence in the colonial architectures.
KeywordsSarawak architecture; colonial architecture; Malaysian architecture; Southeast Asian architecture; architectural history
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