MISS 9: Histories of Indonesian lives and livelihoods around volcanoes
In our last seminar of 2019, Dr. Susie Protschky enlightened audience in a near full room (14/11/2019) with her work in progress and fascinating images, based on an archival research into Indonesian histories of living with natural disaster, particularly the regular earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that are the consequence of Indonesia’s location on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’.
Dr. Protschky examined photographic sources to investigate aspects of Indonesian experiences of disaster that are not commonly explored in social or environmental histories of the modern period. She traced changing representations of human suffering at the acute phase of natural disasters, from the late nineteenth into the twentieth centuries.
She also commented how Indonesians lived with, and made a living on, disaster sites such as volcanoes: as porters and guides for mostly European tourists based in nearby resorts; and as sulphur miners whose labours in dangerous, toxic environments fed colonial industries.
She argued that revisiting volcanoes as worksites, whose ‘yield’ for Indonesian labour has been contingent on natural disaster, should expand interdisciplinary understandings of a situation where marginal livelihoods are dependent on dangerous environments.
Dr. Susie Protschky is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Monash University. Her recent books include Images of the Tropics (Brill/KITLV Press, 2011) and Photographic Subjects (Manchester University Press, 2019), and the edited volumes Photography, Modernity and the Governed in Late-Colonial Indonesia (Amsterdam University Press, 2015) and (with Tom van den Berge) Modern Times in Southeast Asia, 1920s–1970s (Brill, 2018).