‘Het leek zonder leven (…)’
: De representatie van natuur in Rubber van Madelon Székely-Lulofs vanuit postkoloniaal, ecokritisch perspectief

Translated title of the thesis: ‘It seemed without life (…)’ : The representation of nature in Rubber by Madelon Székely-Lulofs from a postcolonial, ecocritical perspective
  • S.E. Wiegman

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    Székely-Lulofs (1899-1958) tells the story of rubber planters and their wives in Deli, Su-matra in the 1920s in her book Rubber. During this period, rubber prices rose enor-mously. The community is derailed by money earned too easily. Nature plays an im-portant role in the book, both as a setting, to shape the characters and in the storyline. By analyzing the book from a postcolonial ecocritical perspective, conscious and un-conscious ways of representing nature emerge clearly. In this master's thesis I investi-gate how the representation of nature in Dutch colonial literature relates to the white Dutch colonial society in the 1920s, and how this contributes to an ecocritical analysis of colonial power structures.
    In Rubber, the Asian characters are often part of a statically presented nature, while the most important Dutch characters change under the influence of nature. The highly hierarchically organized society facilitates the exploitation of people, animals and other parts of nature that are positioned further away from culture and are therefore lower on the ladder. The Dutch characters at the top of the ladder feel little connection with the original nature on Sumatra, which means they experience little care for this na-ture. Destroying the jungle for economic gain is therefore easier and can be regarded as a positive development from this European, anthropocentric perspective. Also in other forms of development of and through nature that are discussed in Rubber this perspective is dominant. The European anthropocentric perspective is further evident in the versions of nature that appear in Rubber. Nature as a commodity, where nature is mainly seen as a tradable product, is possibly one of the most harmful ways to view nature as a society.
    By looking for stories that are written from an ecocentric perspective or by ana-lyzing stories through a postcolonial ecocritical lens, a deconstruction of colonial power structures is possible that can help propose a new paradigm that causes less damage to nature than the current. Literary studies can thus make a valuable contribution to the social transition that will be necessary in the coming decades due to the climate crisis.
    Date of Award3 Jan 2024
    Original languageDutch
    SupervisorSibo Kanobana (Supervisor) & Sarah De Mul (Examiner)

    Master's Degree

    • Master Kunst en Cultuurwetenschappen

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