Ghosts in the Machine: Technology and Imperialism in Southeast Asia at the Fin de Siecle

When:15 Aug 2017, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Venue:Morven Brown 310 (map ref C20)
Who:Associate Professor Eric Tagliacozzo, Cornell University
Eric Tagliacozzo

History Seminar Series


When can "machines be seen as the measure of men", as the historian Michael Adas so beautifully opined? This talk focuses on three moments when technology became crucial in "wiring" Southeast Asia into larger landscapes of modernity and colonization. First, we examine the laying of telegraphs across Indochina, as the French started to plant flags in this part of the world. Second, we will look at the notion of building a canal across the Isthmus of Kra, in what is today southern Thailand, and what was then the semi-independent kingdom of Siam. Finally, we will also analyze the spread of lighthouses as Foucauldian instruments of coercion in the Anglo-Dutch sphere of Insular Southeast Asia, in land-and seascapes that currently comprise Malaysia and Indonesia. I argue in this paper that all of these processes were inter-related, and that they show in regional miniature the shadow and shape of larger forces that were then sweeping the globe.

About Eric Tagliacozzo

Eric Tagliacozzo is associate professor of history at Cornell University. He researches and writes about the movement of people, ideas and material in Southeast Asia. His most recent book is The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

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