Gendered and Ethnic Knowledge

Gendered and Ethnic Knowledge: Mrs. JMC Kloppenburg-Versteegh (1862–1948), an Example from the Dutch East Indies around 1900

Liesbeth Hesselink

Liesbeth Hesselink's project inspected domestic practices of recipe collecting and the transfer of medical knowledge in the colonial setting of the Dutch East Indies around 1900, where race, class, and gender come prominently into play. Hesselink analyzed the ambitious practices of collecting and publishing of the Indo-European Mrs. JMC Kloppenburg-Versteegh, an author of a recipe book based on indigenous medical herbs as well as of a plant atlas, both widely used by Indo-Europeans and Europeans in Java where professional Western healthcare was scarce. Introduced by her mother and local healers to the powers of indigenous plants, Mrs. Kloppenburg developed a great zeal to find, test, and exchange recipes within in broad network of non-Western and Western practitioners. An intermediary between Western and indigenous medicine, Mrs. Kloppenburg’s medical handbooks enjoyed considerable success within the Indo-European community in Java, whereas some representatives of the Western medical practices condemned her work as quackery. Regarding the colonial household as a site of production of medical knowledge and not just a recipient of European genius, Hesselink also highlighted the role of recipe collection by women in this setting. A close analysis of Mrs. Kloppenburg’s recipe collection, its use, and reception brings light to the role of indigenous practitioners in the construction of scientific medicine.