Dr Susie Protschky

I am a Senior Lecturer in Modern History. I research on colonialism and visual culture, with a special focus on photography. I work mainly on modern Dutch imperialism in Indonesia, but have also written on southern Africa, Brazil, and early modern empire.

In 2007 I received my PhD in History from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. I have been at Monash since 2010, and before that, was at the University of Western Australia (Perth) for two years.

My current major project is funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (2017–19). ‘Disaster, Human Suffering and Colonial Photography‘ (DP170100948) examines the human impact of natural and regime-made disasters in a contiguous field, through the camera lenses trained on pain and suffering. This project traces how photography helped develop modern notions of ‘disaster’ in the first century or so after the camera was first employed in the Indonesia (c. 1850–1950). This period saw the rapid proliferation of photography’s uses and, importantly, the violent expansion of the Dutch colonial state. If, as current disaster scholarship suggests, most ‘natural’ disasters have a socio-political component, how has photography contributed to assimilating or differentiating between environmental disasters and situations of conflict and war? What role has the depiction of suffering played in upholding or dismantling these boundaries? How do photographic images relay ‘disaster’ and inform relations between observers and victims? How did photographers use the camera as a tool to think through causes of and solutions to disasters, or to frame and elicit domestic and international intervention? See me speak about a recent outcome of this project here.

Another major project I’ve been working on examines monarchy and empire in the twentieth century. This was funded by an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (ARC APD) (2010-15). My monograph, Photographic Subjects: Monarchy and Visual Culture in Colonial Indonesia, published in the prestigious Manchester University Press ‘Studies in Imperialism’ (2019) is the major outcome of this project. I have also written on monarchy and Afrikaner politics in South Africa, the significance of the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina for colonial adherents to the liberal reform program known as the ‘Ethical Policy’ (c. 1900 – 1942), and encounters between Indonesian and Dutch royals. See the ‘publications’ tab, above, for a full list.

Together with colleagues in the US, Australia, the Netherlands and Indonesia, I have also been working on colonial understandings of ‘modernity’ and their post-colonial legacies. With Tom van den Berge (KITLV, Netherlands), I have edited a volume on Modern Times in Southeast Asia, 1920s-1970s (Brill 2018), and have recently edited and contributed to a collection of essays on Photography, Modernity and the Governed in Late-Colonial Indonesia (Amsterdam University Press, 2015).


For the full list of Susie’s publications, click on the ‘Publications’ tab above.