Prof. Dr. Christoph Antons

Law School of Macquarie University, Sydney (Australia)

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Dr. Christoph Antons studied law, Southeast Asian studies, art history and anthropology at the universities of Munich, Bonn, Mainz and Passau. In 1995 he obtained his doctorate in law from the University of Amsterdam with a thesis on Intellectual Property Law in Indonesia. Since 2021, he is Professor at the Law School of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Previously he was Professor at the University of Newcastle, Deakin University in Melbourne and the University of Wollongong, Associate Professor at Charles Darwin University in Darwin as well as Senior Lecturer or Lecturer at La Trobe University in Melbourne and Griffith University in Brisbane. In addition, Prof. Antons was Visiting Professor, Visiting Research Fellow and Senior Fellow at, among others, Stanford Law School, the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, Netherlands, the Graduate School of International Development in Nagoya, Japan, the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Private Law in Hamburg, Singapore Management University and the University of Melbourne.

Currently, Prof. Dr. Christoph Antons is Visiting Professor at the University of Technology MARA, Shah Alam, Malaysia, Affiliated Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Development Research at the University of Bonn and Senior Associate at the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society (CILIS) at the University of Melbourne.

Prof. Antons is author and editor of numerous publications on intellectual property and law and society in Asia. His research interests also include comparative law, human rights and environmental law as well as the history of law in the Asia-Pacific region. Prof. Antons was consultant to the EC-ASEAN Intellectual Property Cooperation Programme (ECAP) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, QEII Fellow of the Australian Research Council (ARC), Director of the ARC Key Centre for Asia-Pacific Social Transformation Studies and the Centre for Comparative Law and Development Studies in Asia and the Pacific at the University of Wollongong, and Director of the IP in Asia project at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Australia.  

From October 2020 to March 2021, Prof. Dr. Christoph Antons  was a Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center „Law as Culture“ in Bonn.

Research project

"Peranakan Chinese in Indonesia: The Construction of a Community in Colonial Law and its Legacy"

Scholars of ethnic relations often point to the difference between self-determined concepts of ethnic identity and those imposed by others to facilitate the administration of ethnic groups. This distinction is particularly important in colonial and post-colonial societies, characterised by Furnivall as “plural societies”, as a “medley of peoples”, who “mix but do not combine” and live “side by side, but separately within the same unit.” They meet in the market place, where there is a “sectional division of labour” along ethnic lines. Immanuel Wallerstein and Eric Wolf regard this division of labour along ethnic lines as an important element in the world-wide expansion of colonialism and capitalism.

This project analyses the role of law in the construction of ethnic communities and groups during the colonial period and the legacy of these processes since independence, using the example of the Peranakan Chinese in Indonesia, a highly acculturated migrant population group with roots in Indonesia going back to the period of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907). Different colonial powers applied different legal policies to achieve the dividing of and rule over a multiethnic population, in which the largest “native” population group would usually be regarded as the potentially most dangerous threat to colonial power. In the Netherlands East Indies, the legal status of individuals and the relations between different ethnic groups were administered and defined in an increasingly elaborate system of rules, which the Dutch, using the Latin term inter gentes, called the intergentiel recht. It divided the population into “Europeans”, “Foreign Orientals” (such as the Chinese) and “Natives”. After independence, this term was translated into Indonesian as hukum antargolongan (intergroup law). Often discussed together with international private law, it is in Indonesia regarded as an internal variant of conflict of laws principles. In spite of attempts to abolish the system, it continues to influence the legal affairs of ethnic Chinese, but also of other “Foreign Orientals”, on the basis of regulations, which have not been repealed.

The project will show how the perception and legal status of people of Chinese descent in the colony changed over the centuries of Dutch rule using legal policies based on race, ethnicity, religion and colonial economic and political interests. It will analyse early colonial laws and regulations applied by the Dutch East India company in territories under their control as well as the administration of inter-ethnic relations in the Netherlands East Indies in the 19th and 20th century. These policies shaped and confined the Chinese community as a

population group affecting, among other matters, inter-ethnic marriage, freedom of movement, quality of justice, the recognition of customary law and access to public office and economic opportunities. Colonial law and regulation thereby made people with long residency in the country permanently foreign. The discussion of how to reform the system in post-colonial Indonesia is now bound up in a broader political discussion about the nature and structure of Indonesian society and inclusive forms of citizenship. The legacy of the colonial legal stratification becomes visible in the unequal position of Indonesian citizens of Chinese descent with regards to law, perceptions of Chinese identity as unchangeable and in discussions about such matters as the fitness of ethnic Chinese for political office or their right to own land.     

Publications (selected)

  • ‘Farmer-plant-breeders and the law on Java, Indonesia’ (with Yunita T. Winarto and Adlinanur F. Prihandiani), Critical Asian Studies, 2020, DOI: 10.1080/14672715.2020.1822750
  • Intellectual Property, Cultural Property and Intangible Cultural Heritage (co-editor with William Logan), Key Issues in Cultural Heritage Series, London-New York: Routledge 2018.
  • The Routledge Handbook of Asian Law, London-New York: Routledge 2017.
  • Intellectual Property and Free Trade Agreements in the Asia-Pacific Region (co-editor with Reto Hilty), MPI Studies on Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Volume 24, Springer, Heidelberg-New York-Dordrecht-London, 2015.
  • ‘Asian Borderlands and the Legal Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions’, Modern Asian Studies, Volume 47, Issue 4, 2013, 1403-1433
  • Law and Society in East Asia (co-editor with Roman Tomasic), Ashgate Law in East Asia Series, Ashgate Publishing, Farnham/Surrey-Burlington/VT, 2013.
  • Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Intellectual Property Law in the Asia-Pacific Region, The Max Planck Series on Asian Intellectual Property Law, Volume 14, Kluwer Law International, Alphen aan den Rijn 2009.
  • Globalisation and Resistance: Law Reform in Asia Since the Crisis (co-editor with Volkmar Gessner), Oñati International Series in Law and Society – No. 20, Hart Publishing, Oxford 2007.
  • Law and Development in East and Southeast Asia, IIAS Asian Studies Series, RoutledgeCurzon, London-New York 2003.
  • Intellectual Property Law in Indonesia, The Max Planck Series on Asian Intellectual Property Law, Volume 2, Kluwer Law International, The Hague-London-Boston 2000.