Burdens of Proof: Photography and Evidence of Atrocity during the Dutch Military Actions in Indonesia (1945–1950)

Susie Protschky

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2 Citations (Scopus)


There is but a limited scholarship on photographic sources from the Dutch military actions during the Revolusi Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Revolution) (1945-1949), and what exists almost entirely neglects perhaps the largest component of the archives: Dutch soldiers' amateur photographs. Yet this category of photographs has simultaneously attracted much public and media controversy. This article contends that a narrow range of soldiers' amateur photographs have thus far borne an anomalously weighty burden of proof to substantiate the nature and limits of extreme violence during the National Revolution, one that is brittle and difficult to sustain unless historians begin to broaden the focus of investigations into photographic archives. This article also investigates what it may mean for present-day Indonesians to see their ancestors as perpetrators as well as victims of violence and, importantly, as occupants of the ambiguous categories between both ends of this spectrum. What are the ethics of looking at and reproducing these photographs, and to whom do they belong?

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-278
Number of pages39
JournalBijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Decolonization
  • Dutch military operations in Indonesia,1945-1949
  • Photography
  • Revolusi nasional Indonesia (Indonesian national revolution)
  • Violence

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