Special Talk by Paul van der Velde


You are cordially invited to a special talk by Paul van de Velde, co-founder and Secretary of the International Convention of Asian Scholars (ICAS).

Theme: The World According to Jacob Haafner (1754-1809): Travel Story Writer cum anti-colonialist

Speaker: Paul van der Velde

Time: 16:00~17:30
Date: Mon, Feb 4th, 2019
Place: Tonan-tei

Jacob Haafner spent almost fifteen years of his life in India (1772-1786). He witnessed the demise of the factories of the United Dutch East India Company (VOC) on the Indian coast. These were multicultural, multilingual societies in which a tolerant attitude towards other cultures and people prevailed. It was as such part of the emporial world of the ancien regime which was destroyed by imperialist constructs at the end of the 18th century.

Against the backdrop of this lost world the five travel stories Haafner wrote, unfold themselves. They were very popular in the first half of the nineteenth century and translated into many languages. In his stories he displays a yearning for India which has a strong romantic undertone but is throughout critical of the new imperialist world order. He hailed freedom fighters avant la lettre as Hyder Ali Khan in India and Toussaint l’ Ouverture in Haiti.

This was quite exceptional in a time when the alpha and omega of the western mindset were the Holy Scriptures. These excluded any originality on the part of other civilizations. It was this frame of mind which Haafner attacked in his Essay on the Usefulness of Missionaries and Missionary Societies(1807), the first global study on the effects of western expansion. It is essential to our knowledge of Haafners’ ideas about colonialism and the influence of the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Hinduism on his way of thinking. These, combined with quotes from his contemporary sounding travel stories, will be the topic of this lecture.

Paul van der Velde(1955) studied Sinology and History at Leiden University; Art History of East Asia at the University of Amsterdam (UvA); Modern Chinese at Middlebury College (Middelbury, VT, US) and the National Taiwan Normal University (Taipei). He obtained his PhD from Leiden University in 2000 for a biography on the Indologist P.J. Veth (1814-1895) which was published in the KITLV series Verhandelingenentitled A Lifelong Passion. P.J. Veth (1814-1895) and the Dutch East Indies(2006).

He was scientific researcher at the Institute for the History of the European Expansion and Reactions at Leiden University (1988-1993) in which capacity he was editor of the seriesDeshima Dagregisters their original tables of contents, 1700-1780in 6 vols. (Leiden / Tokyo 1988-93). He was, from 1993-1998, head of the communication division of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS, Leiden) and founding editor of the IIAS Newsletter. He was Executive Director of the Institute for Comparative Political and Economic Institutions at the UvA (1998-2000) at which university he was senior policy advisor until 2005. He edited five volumes on the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process and the book What about Asia: Revisiting Asian Studies(2006)

He is co-founder of the International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS, 1997) of which he is the Secretary. In 2005 he founded the ICAS Book Prize which has grown into one of the most prestigious prizes in the field of Asian studies. In 2008 his biography (in Dutch) on the travel story writer and anti-colonialist Jacob Haafner (1754-1809) was published, an English version of which will be published by NUS Press in 2019. In 2016 he was knighted by the Commissioner of the King in the Province of Zeeland in the rank of Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau.