Photographic subjects

Monarchy and visual culture in colonial Indonesia

By Susie Protschky

Photographic subjects
Hardcover +
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526124371
  • Publish Date: Jun 2019
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526156990
  • Publish Date: Jul 2021
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £21.00
  • ISBN: 9781526124395
  • Publish Date: Jun 2019
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    Photographic subjects examines photography at royal celebrations during the reign of Queens Wilhelmina (1898-1948) and Juliana (1948-80), a period spanning the zenith and fall of Dutch rule in Indonesia. It is the first monograph in English on the Dutch monarchy and the Netherlands' modern empire in the age of mass and amateur photography. Photographs forged imperial networks, negotiated relations of recognition and subjecthood between Indonesians and Dutch authorities, and informed cultural modes of citizenship at a time of accelerated colonial expansion and major social change in the East Indies/Indonesia. This book advances methods in the uses of photographs for social and cultural history, reveals the entanglement of Dutch and Indonesian histories in the twentieth century, and provides a new interpretation of Queens Wilhelmina and Juliana as imperial monarchs.


    'It has taken historians a generation or two to come to terms with empire. Historians who lived during the age of empires tended to put the term "imperialism" in the too-hard basket. Those who lived through the end of empire appropriately, for the main, took the side of anti-imperialist nationalists. Susie Protschky's Photographic subjects is at the forefront of new studies of imperialism. While not doubting its moral illegitimacy, she explains how the Netherlands' colony of the East Indies imagined itself in relation to the Dutch monarchy. This is a subtle and far-sighted book, analysing photography in relation to royalty in order to show how empire worked. The visual binding of the colony to the "mother" country was, as she shows, carried out through an array of imagery that celebrated devotion to the absent ruler. Peace and war, tradition and modernity provided a range of sights revealing the nature of colonial subjecthood. This is an essential book for understanding modern Indonesian history.'
    Adrian Vickers, Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Sydney

    'A rich, carefully researched and innovative study of photography and monarchy in the Dutch Empire, Photographic subjects is a remarkable achievement. Protschky attends to image-making practices and the materiality of images to yield new insights into the relationship between monarchical authority, imperial rule and photography. Going beyond analyses of official portraits as props in state-sponsored spectacles, Protschky explores how people in the colonies responded to images of the queen though their own photographic practices. She presents an array of figures - colonial officials, local indigenous rulers, middle class Indo-European and Dutch colonists, Chinese associations and Javanese youth groups, among others - who posed next to the queen's portrait, took photographs of royal celebrations in the Indies, sent photographic albums as gifts to the queen, collected postcards and clippings related to the queen, and shared images commemorating royal events with distant family members in other parts of the empire. Photographs, she demonstrates, were not simply proxies for an absent queen. Rather, the queen's physical absence stimulated an array of photographic engagements with her image that cultivated affective attachments to the imperial project she embodied. Spanning a period in which photography transformed from a narrowly elite to a mass technology, Photographic subjects persuasively argues that photography played a crucial role in the formation of imperial subjects and imagined communities.'
    Karen Strassler, Associate Professor, Anthropology Department, Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center

    'Photographic subjects is a refreshing, comprehensive study of the articulation of social and political relations in the East Indies during Wilhelmina's reign through visual culture. Protschky uses a novel, broad approach in which photographs serve as a topic, source and prism for looking into the Dutch empire.'
    Low Countries Historical Review

    As a historian and curator with an interest in historical photographs of Chinese in Australia, it was refreshing to explore Dutch imperialism in Asia and exciting to have this told so well through the lens of historical photographs. While the book's historical focus is the Dutch Monarchy and its relationship to its East Indies colonies, it deserves a much wider readership as an exemplary example of the historical insight that can be gained from a careful analysis of historical photographs as objects and representations.'
    History Australia

    '[This] desire to delve in, to open up the material even further, is, however, testament to the richness of the vernacular and official archive Protschky has so brilliantly assembled and draws on with such skill throughout the book. [...] Above all, it is a detailed and substantive contribution to our understanding of photography as both a technology of rule and a medium of popular political communication, identity, and subjectivity.'
    Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia



    joint winner of the 2020 Royal Studies Journal Book Prize

    Winner of the inaugural Asian Studies Association of Australia Mid-Career Book Prize


    1 The image of the monarch who stayed home
    2 Snapshot diplomacy: Photographic gifts from indigenous royals
    3 Monarchism, amateur photography and colonial citizenship
    4 Visual appeal: Photographs for the queen from colonial commoners
    5 Oversight: Unity in diversity at royal celebrations
    6 Lights, camera and . 'ethical' colonial rule
    7 Monarchy, photography and the end of empire


    Susie Protschky is Senior Lecturer in Modern History at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

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