Technologies of Seeing in Southeast Asian History

Dr. Susanne  Protschky2, Dr. Clare Veal4, A/Prof Samson Lim1, Dr. Alexander Supartono3, Dr. Sandeep Ray1

1Singapore University Of Technology And Design, Singapore, Singapore, 2Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 3Edinburg Napier University, Edinburg , United Kingdom, 4LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore, Singapore

Chair: A/Prof. Samson Lim


From the late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries in both mainland and island Southeast Asia, new methods of visualizing the natural and social world were introduced. These included photography and film but also mapping, museums, monuments, and even accounting. Whether produced by colonial officers, foreign visitors, local elites, or commoners, in commercial books with European audience in mind or in state documents whose viewers would-be administrators, the images generated had great effect on the ways in which people envisioned their world. This panel brings together four papers that explore these technologies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Siam and the Dutch East Indies. The first paper offers a feminist reading of photographs of Siam created by John Thomson, well-known British photographer in the period. The second paper uses one of Thomson’s more famous images as an entrée to an analysis of the development of early capitalism in Bangkok. The third paper provides an overview and analysis of Dutch colonial photography books from the nineteenth century. The fourth looks at the ways in which the Dutch employed motion pictures to portray Islam in their Indonesian colonies.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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