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Contesting colonial (hi)stories: (Post)colonial imaginings of South East Asia

Supartono, Alexander; Moschovi, Alexandra


Alexandra Moschovi


This article seeks to explore the impact of digital technologies upon the material, conceptual and ideological premises of the colonial archive in the digital era. This analysis is pursued though a discussion of creative work produced during an international, multidisciplinary artist workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, that used digital material from colonial photographic archives in the Netherlands to critically investigate the ways national, transnational and personal (hi)stories in the former colonies in Southeast Asia have been informed and shaped by their colonial past. The analysis focuses on how the artists’ use of digital media contests and reconfigures the use, truth value and power of the colonial archive as an entity and institution. Case studies include: Thai photographer Dow Wasiksiri, who questions the archive's mnemonic function by substituting early twentieth-century handcrafted association techniques with digital manipulation; Malaysian artist Yee I-Lann, who compresses onto the same picture plane different historical moments and colonial narratives; and Indonesian photographer Agan Harahap, who recomposes archival photographs into unlikely juxtapositions disseminated through social media. By repurposing colonial archival material and circulating their work online such a re-imag(in)ing of Southeast Asia not only challenges the notions of originality, authenticity, ownership and control associated with such archives, but also reclaims colonial-era (hi)stories, making them part of a democratic, expanding, postcolonial archive.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 29, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 4, 2020
Publication Date 2020-09
Deposit Date Sep 25, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 25, 2018
Journal Journal of Southeast Asian Studies
Print ISSN 0022-4634
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 51
Issue 3
Pages 343-371
Keywords photography; appropriation; networked image; digitisation; postcolonialism; social media; repurposing; media convergence; online activism; colonial archive; documentary photography, Agan Harahap, Yee I-Lann, Dow Wasiksiri
Public URL
Contract Date Sep 25, 2018


Contesting colonial (hi)stories: (Post)colonial imaginings of South East Asia (16.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
This article will be published in a revised form in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies []. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. © CUP

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