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The Indian Patola: import and consumerism in early-modern Indonesia

Soniya Billore (Department of Marketing, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)
Hans Hägerdal (Department of Cultural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Växjö, Sweden)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 6 August 2019

Issue publication date: 22 August 2019




The present paper aims to focus on the Indian influence in the transfer of, the business of and consumer markets for Indian products, specifically, textiles from producers in the South Asian subcontinent to the lands to the east of Bali. This aspect of the influence of Indian products has received some attention in a general but not been sufficiently elucidated with regard to eastern Indonesia.


This paper is based on archival research, as well as secondary data, derived from the published sources on early trade in South Asia and the Indian Ocean world. The study includes data about the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, a Dutch-owned company, and its textile trade history with India and the Indonesian islands with a special focus on Patola textiles. Narratives and accounts provide an understanding of the Patola, including business development and related elite and non-elite consumption.


The paper shows how imported Indian textiles became indigenised in important respects, as shown in legends and myths. A search in the colonial sources demonstrates the role of cloth in gift exchange, alliance brokering and economic network-building in eastern Indonesia, often with important political implications.

Research limitations/implications

The study combines previous research on material culture and textile traditions with archival data from the early colonial period, thus pointing at new ways to understand the socio-economic agency of local societies.


Only mapping the purchase and ownership of trading goods to understand consumption is not enough. One must also regard consumption, both as an expression of taste and desire and as a way to reify a community of people.



Billore, S. and Hägerdal, H. (2019), "The Indian Patola: import and consumerism in early-modern Indonesia", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 271-294.



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