Java is the world’s most populous island, with more inhabitants than Great Britain or Honshu, and has been a major crossroads of ideas, objects and people for millennia. Despite its importance, Java has been very much underrepresented in historical scholarship worldwide. This panel seeks to demonstrate the significant role of Java in global history, and to deconstruct the implicit hierarchies (colonial, civilisational, economic) that have tended to belittle this significance. In doing so, it does not take categories such as ‘Java’, ‘Asia’ and ‘Europe’ for granted, but reevaluates them from the perspective of global connections in history.
This panel offers new perspectives on how Java’s societies and cultures developed over the centuries, from a range of disciplines including archaeology, philology, architectural history, and the history of religion. The panel also examins how those developments connected with historical processes elsewhere in the world. The connective trend within global history is particularly useful in the case of Java for two reasons. First, it allows scholars to move beyond the conceptual dichotomy of local autonomy versus foreign influence, which has dominated historians’ study of Java for much of the 20th century. Second, it makes more visible the themes of mobility and cosmopolitanism in the history of Java, which have been downplayed in both colonial and national historiographies.