Peter Carey: Fascination over Diponegoro
Hans David Tampubolon
The Jakarta Post
A Briton with many international acknowledgements of his work, including a Grand Officer in the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator for his work in Timor Leste, Peter Carey's main childhood hero was not from British folklore or legend, such as King Arthur or Robin Hood.
Instead, the young Carey was completely fascinated with Prince Diponegoro, a Javanese aristocrat who stood up against Dutch colonialism in Java in the early 19th century.
He first learned about Diponegoro when he saw a picture of the prince in a book when in elementary school in England. He admired how the prince, despite his royal status, was close to his people and defended them.
Carey's fascination with Diponegoro had not diminished by the time he grew up, even after he had earned both a bachelor's and a master's degree. He learned more about him when he took a Dutch language class during his undergraduate studies.
When Carey was doing his doctorate, he finally had an opportunity to write a thesis on his childhood hero.
'When I had the chance to make a historical thesis for my doctorate in Oxford, I immediately chose Diponegoro as an object of my research. I then came to Indonesia in 1971 to begin my research and completed my thesis in 1973,' Carey said.
As Carey learned more about Diponegoro, his became more interested in the character of the Javanese prince.
'I found [Prince] Diponegoro to be a man who has a lot of complexities, puzzles and journeys in his life. At the very least, he had three major journeys in his life; when he was adopted into the Javanese monarch, when he became a warlord against Dutch colonialism and finally when he was exiled during his later years,' said the 66-year-old.
'In every journey and trial Diponegoro faced, he did not lose his spirit. He still maintained his creativity and his humanity by becoming a writer, a leader, a statesman, a mystique, a clean administrator and performed very good financial management under his ruling.'
After completing his doctorate, Carey began publishing numerous literature on Diponegoro and Javanese history during the times of Dutch colonialism.
Some of Carey's noted work on Diponegoro and Javanese history are The Power of Prophecy: Prince Dipanagara and the End of an Old Order in Java, Sexuality and Power: Towards an Intimate History of the Consolidation of Dutch rule in Early 19th Century Java and Babad Dipanagara: An Account of the Outbreak of the Java War.
Babad Dipanagara is set to be dramatically performed by poet Landung Simatupang during the Makassar International Writers' Festival, which will take place from June 4 to 7 in Makassar, South Sulawesi, where Diponegoro spent his last years in exile.
Some similarities of fate between Carey and Diponegoro may have stirred addition passion within the historian for his childhood hero.
Like Diponegoro, Carey has also made many journeys in his life.
Carey, whose parents were businessman Thomas Brian Carey and Wendy Carey, was born in Burma in 1948.
Carey's lineage is also connected to the Asian region. His great-great-grandfather, William Carey, was a missionary in Calcutta, India, who translated the bible into 27 different Hindi languages. He also established the first press office in Calcutta.
'I always feel that I have a special connection with the Asian region,' he said.
After spending the first seven years in Burma, Carey returned to Britain to start his education. Carey graduated in 1969 from Trinity College, Oxford, with first-class honors in modern history. He then accepted a scholarship at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
'After I finished my doctorate thesis here [Indonesia], I returned to England to teach Asian history in Oxford for 35 years. I took an early retirement in 2008 to return to Indonesia and ever since then, I stayed here,' Carey said.
Carey's residence in Indonesia is in Bumi Serpong Damai in Tangerang, Banten.
He lives with his wife, Lina Suriyanti, an Indonesian, and together they own a wallpaper store at a shopping mall.
Carey said he had no plans to return to England in the near future and that he still wanted to concentrate on his work to preserve Javanese heritage.
'I am also now involved in a project that aims to save and to preserve ancient scripts on Majapahit,' he said.
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