I am a Senior Lecturer in Modern History, and Director of Monash University’s International Studies program. 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.
I have recently been appointed the 2018 Tholenaar van Raalte Fellow in Photography at the Research Centre for Material Culture, the research institute for the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam), Museum Volkenkunde (Leiden) and the Africa Museum (Berg en Dal) that serves as a focal point for research on ethnographic collections in the Netherlands.
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 Susie 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). The forthcoming monograph on this project is Photographic Subjects: Monarchy, Photography and the Dutch East Indies (contracted to Manchester University Press), and have several other essays in the Manchester University Press ‘Studies in Imperialism’ series on this topic. I have 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 for Brill (forthcoming in 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).