Lost in Translation? Maritime Identity and Identification in Asia under the VOC

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


The history of non-European sailors, especially the history of lascar sailors, has gained increasing scholarly attention in recent years. This article argues that the category of the ‘lascar’ cannot simply be taken for granted as a historically stable category. Examining the early modern categorisation and identification process of Asian, Eurasian and European sailors under the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), it compares the categorisation patterns of the global maritime workforce employed by the VOC, the biggest trading organisation operating throughout Asia in the seventeenth century and much of the eighteenth, with those used by workers themselves. By doing so, it complicates historical categories of maritime labour. In the early modern period, these categories were contextually contingent, discursive and subject to change over time. This further nuances nineteenth century ‘lascar stereotypes’ and contributes to our understanding of the world of Asian, Eurasian and European sailors working on European ships in Asia in a period before the notion of the lascar came to dominate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139–152
JournalJournal for Maritime Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC)
  • East India Company (EIC)
  • early modern identities
  • European expansion
  • lascars
  • sailors
  • intercultural encounters
  • South Asia
  • Southeast Asia


Dive into the research topics of 'Lost in Translation? Maritime Identity and Identification in Asia under the VOC'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this