Susie Protschky


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Personal profile



Susie Protschky is a historian of colonialism and decolonisation in Southeast Asia. She works on environmental disaster and conflict in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on the role of photography in expressing atrocity, humanitarianism, witnessing, citizenship and agency in these contexts. Her latest book, Photographic Subjects: Monarchy and Visual Culture in Colonial Indonesia (Manchester University Press, 2019), won the Asian Studies Association of Australia Mid-Career Book Prize and the Royal Studies Journal Book Prize (jointly awarded). Her first book, Images of the Tropics: Environment and Visual Culture in Colonial Indonesia, was published by KITLV Press/Brill in 2011.

In 2021 Susie commences a prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship for the project ‘Decolonisation and photography in Southeast Asia: Histories and Legacies’. The project aims to investigate the untold history of decolonisation in Southeast Asia through amateur soldier photographs taken during the Indonesian National Revolution and the Malayan Emergency. Such photographs constitute a vast yet neglected archive that promises unique insights into encounters between combatants on all sides, and with civilians whose experiences have rarely been accessible, particularly women, children and unfree workers. The project seeks to produce new knowledge of violence in decolonisation and the long-term legacies of colonialism in Southeast Asia, and  a critical historical framework for understanding the meaning and impact of photographs taken in war.

From 2017 to 2019 Susie held an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant for the project ‘Disaster, human suffering and colonial photography’. It uses rich yet largely neglected sources from colonial Indonesia (c.1840-1950) to produce the first sustained study of how images of human suffering in different disaster contexts have evolved since the invention of photography. The project aims to advance historical understanding of how and why European expansion was crucial for shaping moderns ideas about disasters, and how photography has developed to communicate human suffering. Click here to view the project website.

Susie’s research has also been supported by fellowships at the Scaliger Institute, Leiden University Library (Brill Fellow, 2018), the Research Centre for Material Culture, Netherlands (Tholenaar van Raalte Fellowship in Photography), and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV, 2014).

Susie is the editor of two recent books, Modern Times in Southeast Asia, 1920s­–1970s (with Tom van den Berge), published by Brill in 2018, and Photography, Modernity and the Governed in Late-Colonial Indonesia (Amsterdam University Press, 2015). Modern Times examines how everyday experiences of being ‘modern’ (c. 1920s-70s) indexed continuity and change in the transition from colonialism to independence and after in Southeast Asia. Photography, Modernity and the Governed reveals how contested notions of modernity, civilization, and being governed were envisioned through photography in early twentieth-century Indonesia, a period when the Dutch colonial regime was implementing a liberal reform program known as the Ethical Policy. 

For a full list of journal articles and book chapters, as well as books, click ‘Research outputs’ along the top tab.



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