Willem Huibert Rassers (1877-1973) was a Dutch orientalist and anthropologist. Influenced by the Sanskritist Hendrik Kern, he studied Indonesian language and literature. After his doctoral examination, in 1918 he was appointed to the Rijks Ethnographisch Museum in Leiden — which later became the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnography) — of which he was director between 1937 and 1943. An eminent specialist in Javanese theatre and Indonesian material cultures, he never went to Indonesia. Rassers is one of the first to have perceived and described the close link between myths, rituals and social structures in a specific cultural environment. He was a close friend of J.P.B. de Josselin de Jong, under whom he was also a precursor of Leiden’s structuralist school.
“Unveiling Indonesia’s Social Structures Without Doing Any Field Research: The Life and Work of Willem Rassers”
Pieter ter Keurs, 2019
Willem Huibert Rassers (1877-1973) is, in many ways, a unique cultural anthropologist. He wrote copiously about Indonesian material culture, but never did any fieldwork and never set foot in Indonesia. He was at the origin of important theoretical innovations in Dutch anthropology, but never had disciples who could widely disseminate his ideas. He was never linked to a university and always kept a modest, safe distance, if oral evidence is (...)