Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java (Objects/Histories)

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Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java

Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions dukeupress. For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department. Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here. A young couple poses before a painted backdrop depicting a modern building set in a volcanic landscape; a college student grabs his camera as he heads to a political demonstration; a man poses stiffly for his identity photograph; amateur photographers look for picturesque images in a rural village; an old woman leafs through a family album.

Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java

In Refracted Visions , Karen Strassler argues that popular photographic practices such as these have played a crucial role in the making of modern national subjects in postcolonial Java. Contending that photographic genres cultivate distinctive ways of seeing and positioning oneself and others within the affective, ideological, and temporal location of Indonesia, she examines genres ranging from state identification photos to pictures documenting family rituals. Oriented to projects of selfhood, memory, and social affiliation, popular photographs recast national iconographies in an intimate register.

They convey the longings of Indonesian national modernity: Yet photography also brings people into contact with ideas and images that transcend and at times undermine a strictly national frame. Acting as cultural brokers who translate global and colonial imageries into national idioms, these members of a transnational minority have helped shape the visual contours of Indonesian belonging even as their own place within the nation remains tenuous.

Refracted Visions illuminates the ways that everyday photographic practices generate visual habits that in turn give rise to political subjects and communities. I find her concept of "refracted v First of all, I really like this book. I find her concept of "refracted visions" as challenges to holistic and homogeneous visions of nationalism, citizenship, and photography-as-technology, useful for my own research.

Well-grounded in various visual and cultural theories such as Bakhtin, Benjamin, de Certeau, Anderson, and Siegel, Strassler argues for both a history "of" vision and a history "through" vision yielded by the practices of popular photography in Java. These practices, according to her, "reveal the larger currents of Indonesian history as they are refracted through the prism of the intimate and the everyday" As for organization goes, Strassler divides her book into six chapters.

The first chapter largely discusses the history of amateur photography and the role of Chinese-Indonesians in the development of amateur photography. Here, Strassler adeptly highlights the intricacies and tensions in the role of Chinese-Indonesian amateur photographers as the emissaries who have to picture something "uniquely Indonesian. While still looking at the role of Chinese-Indonesians in the development of this genre, Strassler proposes an argument that portraiture studios in Java function as landscapes of the imagination for its users.

It could be landscapes catering to the imagining of a new nation, the aspiration towards modernity, ideal home, and social acceptance.

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Here, Strassler again highlights the formal exclusion of the Chinese-Indonesians from the discourse of nationalism and authentic citizenship, a practice that actually originated from the Dutch colonial policy in the country. Strassler then points out various cases of popular appropriations of this identity-photography by Indonesian citizens in Java such as its uses for personal, "honorific" purposes, from memorial portraits to tokens of friendship.

Thus, "popular practices embed identity photographs in networks of social relations, structures of recognition, and personal trajectories that exceed the pasfoto's state-assigned function as proof of identity and mark of citizenship" In chapter four—my least favorite—Strassler examines the genre of documentation "dokumentasi" photography in Java.

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Analyzing such collection as family wedding album, funeral album, birthday party album, she suggests that this genre of photographic practice cultivates a particular "way of seeing" that "harnesses memory to the iconic mapping of temporal progress and homogenizes different kinds of family ritual within a single representational logic" However, Strassler argues that this logic works to different effects. For instance, in wedding photographs, the emphasis of the documentation is on the compulsive reenactment of tradition Concluding the chapter, Strassler suggests that the popular practice of "dokumentasi" involves diverse discourses such as colonial and New Order one of the governmental regimes in Indonesia preoccupations with cultural authenticity, Javanese concerns with proper comportment and affect, and globally circulating ideologies of photo-consumerism.

Chapter five analyzes the genre of popular photography as a witness of history "saksi sejarah" in Indonesia.

In this chapter, Strassler looks particularly at popular photographic practices by Indonesian student activists during the reformation "reformasi" struggle in , a struggle that eventually ended the thirty two years of New Order rule in Indonesia. As the last chapter, chapter six is wildly entertaining. Here, Strassler focuses her attention to the practice of photographic montage of an eccentric figure named Noorman, a retired veteran of the Indonesian revolution army. In order to accomplish this mission, Noorman thus produces series of photographic montage on the street walls of Yogyakarta—a special administrative region in the central part of Java—and particularly on the wall of his house.

This montage reveals an counter-history the presidential succession from Soekarno—the Old Order ruler—to Soeharto—the New Order ruler where it presents the leadership change as manipulative and involuntary. She seems to discount the cultural differences between the ethnic groups living in the region, especially between those who live in the western part and those in the central and eastern parts of the island.

Essai d'histoire globale, as it is not included in her bibliography. Nevertheless—as I said in the beginning—my criticism does not dismiss the fact that the book is an important contribution both for the studies of Indonesian culture and of photography as media technology in Indonesia. Sep 15, Brian rated it it was amazing. I found this book quite engaging as both a photographer and amateur Indonesianist Karen Strassler, Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java book review.

Popular Photography and National Modernit Duke University Press, While the book provides adequate historical background into the consolidation of popular photography since the colonial era, its focus is on six genres, each given a separate chapter treatment: Strassler draws from the methodological insights of Roland Barthes, John Tagg, and other photography theorists, engages extensively with critical area studies approaches to Indonesia Benedict Anderson , and situates her findings within a range of distinguished anthropological studies of Indonesia and Java by scholars such as Clifford Geertz, James Siegel, and John Pemberton.

Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java 32 in color: Sales/Territorial Rights: World: Series: Objects/Histories: Series Editor(s). Refracted Visions: Popular Photography and National Modernity in Java (Objects /Histories) [Karen Strassler] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying.

The value of Refracted Visions is reinforced by the specificity of its geographical location, Indonesia, which is a very large country by population and extremely diverse linguistically and ethnically. Indonesia thus serves as an important example of how cultural contestation in many postcolonial nation-states in Asia and Africa is inextricably linked to their formative aporias.

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Moreover, Indonesian politics since its independence from Dutch rule have been characterized by two long periods of domination by a single ruler: Periods of marked violence attended the end of each era: The introduction to Refracted Visions provides a useful historical overview of Indonesian photography and political developments since the colonial era, including events that led to the overthrow of the Suharto regime in the late s.

The introduction also discusses the relation between Javanese and Indonesian identity and considers photography as a force of global modernity and its particular articulation in Indonesia; these issues are further articulated and specified in subsequent chapters. Chapter 1 provides a good history of amateur photographic activity since the Dutch colonial era, and traces debates during the early independence era that stressed mastering the photographic medium in order for Indonesia to modernize.

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Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link. Chapter 2 discusses studio photography and includes a valuable treatment of the change in props and backdrop landscapes since the colonial era. In the wake of the violence, a mandatory identity card was introduced that not only functioned as a marker of an abstract Indonesian citizenship, but also began to delineate legitimate residence in a specific and local community. You must be logged in to Tag Records. Want to Read saving…. Further information on the Library's opening hours is available at:

During her fieldwork in the s, Strassler accompanied amateur photographers, many of them ethnic Chinese who formed photographic clubs and ventured into the countryside seeking authentic asli views of Indonesia, a documentary focus supported by the state and by multinational corporations.