02.111 Photography in Modern Southeast Asia History

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This subject explores the role of photography in the creation of historical knowledge about Southeast Asia over the past 150 years. It does so in two different ways. The first is by examining the ways a range of actors, from European colonial officials to local elites, employed photography to represent social, cultural, and political aspects of Southeast Asian life between the late 19th century and the middle of the 20th century. It asks, What role did photography play in colonial expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries? How were people and places from Southeast Asia portrayed? What can we learn about history from these portrayals? The second, way is by exploring how photographs can be not simply passive representations of the past, but also active agents in shaping historical events. How did photographs, film, and other imaging technologies change society and politics over the past 150 years? How is photography related to the development of capitalism in Southeast Asia in the 20th century? How do people, including agents of the state, employ and understand photography today? In answering the above questions, students will come away able to recognize the changing meanings of photographs, the different roles that photography plays in history, and thus better equipped for working with visual materials in general.

Samson Lim