Susie Protschky is a Senior Lecturer in Modern History, and Director of Monash University’s International Studies program. She obtained her PhD in History from the University of New South Wales in 2007, and researches on colonialism, cultural history and visual culture, with a special focus on photography. The Dutch empire in the modern era is her field, particularly the Netherlands East Indies (colonial Indonesia).
Susie is currently working on a project 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 Susie speak about a recent outcome of this project here.
Susie also recently held an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (ARC APD) (2010-15). The project focused on photography, monarchy and empire in the East Indies, with additional ventures into Afrikaner culture in South Africa, and the significance of the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina for colonial adherents to the liberal reform program known as the ‘Ethical Policy’ (c. 1900 – 1942). The forthcoming monograph on this project is Photographic Subjects: Monarchy, Photography and the Dutch East Indies (contracted to Manchester University Press).
Together with colleagues in the US, Australia, the Netherlands and Indonesia, Susie has also been working on colonial understandings of ‘modernity’ and their post-colonial legacies. She and Tom van den Berge (KITLV, Netherlands) are editing a volume on Modern Times in Southeast Asia, 1920s-1970s for Brill (forthcoming in 2018), and Susie has recently edited and contributed to a collection of essays on Photography, Modernity and the Governed in Late-Colonial Indonesia (Amsterdam University Press, 2015).