Memories, objects, art: disrupting colonial narratives on Borneo’s cultural heritage


Double Panel

Part 1

Session 11
Thu 14:00-15:30 REC A2.11

Part 2

Session 12
Thu 16:00-17:30 REC A2.12


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The establishment of the Brooke government in Borneo from the 1840s heralded both the gradual imposition of state borders onto previously flexible boundaries, and the start of an unprecedented extraction of knowledge, resources and material culture from the island. The uniquely personal nature of the Brooke state had a transboundary impact on knowledge-gathering across the island, enabling European scholar-administrators to leave a significant and enduring legacy for interpretations and perceptions of Borneo’s history and culture. The voices of colonial scholars such as Charles Hose and Tom Harrisson continue to dominate contemporary understandings of this region, both locally and globally, and to shape the public interpretation of Borneo’s heritage. This panel seeks to open a dialogue on how these narratives might be challenged and Borneo’s cultural heritage reinterpreted to privilege local knowledge and perspectives, within an interdisciplinary framework spanning anthropology, history, art history and museology. It will highlight several ongoing projects focusing on alternative source material, including oral narratives, artworks and museum collections, and evaluate approaches to this material and their benefits and challenges. The panel will be pertinent to Borneo Studies, but also explores case studies relevant to the re-examination and reinterpretation of colonial histories more generally.