Technological Innovations and Changing Temporalities in Colonial Southeast Asia


Single Panel


Session 1
Wed 11:00-12:30 Room 0.19



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The expansion of colonial capitalism and the emergence of new technologies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries led to radical transformations of local life worlds. Infrastructure projects such as road and railway construction, telegraph lines, and the advent of electric lighting and power distribution initiated a steady increase in time-space compression and acceleration, but also processes of exclusion and marginalization. The rise of the capitalist mode of production and its implementation in mines, plantations and factories arguably engendered novel experiences of temporality and disruptions of people’s sense of place that affected local communities in complex and uneven ways. The objective of this panel is to explore new approaches to the study of socio-technological ruptures under colonialism. In particular, we ask how technological innovations (re)shaped local social relations and mobilities, perceptions of time and space, and seasonal rhythms of life. We aim to discuss not only the disruptive effects of new technologies, but also investigate social and cultural practices of appropriation, avoidance, or even subversion. Creatively combining historical and anthropological approaches, the panel will address questions of how technological innovations moved from the metropole to the colonies or were even (re-)invented within colonial settings, and how they gained traction and affected local lifeworlds in unforeseen, contingent ways. We welcome contributions from a microhistorical perspective dealing with (but not limited to) the following questions:

· How did local communities respond to the changing speed, rhythm, and noise of everyday life?
· How did social actors navigate the challenges posed by new infrastructures of mobility and communication?
· How did the advent of electricity transform the visual experience of urban dwellers and their understandings of nocturnal urbanity?
· How did new (architectural) forms and spaces act upon bodies and subjectivities (of both colonizer and colonized)?
· How did local communities creatively appropriate and experiment with new technological innovations, and how did this affect colonial governmentality and practices of social control?