On Tuesday 20 June 2023, 16:30, Marleen Reichgelt will defend here dissertation ‘Revisioning Colonial Childhoods. A Photographic History of Papuan Children in Missionary Networks, 1890-1930’ in the Aula of the Radboud University. Supervisors are Prof. dr. Geertje Mak and Prof. dr. Marit Monteiro.
Revisioning Colonial Childhoods uses an in-depth analysis of a collection of missionary photographs taken in West Papua in the early twentieth century to study Papuan children’s lives and changing positions in a society increasingly dictated by Dutch colonial governance. This dissertation assesses different ways of distilling historically significant traces of children’s lives from photographs. Photographs have the power to make children visible, transform nameless masses into recognisable individuals, and allow for a historical analysis centred around children’s movements, actions, and bodies. As such, they are an indispensable source to see and study young individuals who were central to Dutch colonial policy.
Four case studies explore what photography may bring to the study of the identities, actions, and positions of children in colonial missionary networks. In and through the photographs, Revisioning Colonial Childhoods endeavours to recognise children as actors and agents in the historical processes that undergirded the colonisation of West Papua: the formation of colonial networks, schooling and ‘civilising’ practices, practices of exploration, and the acquisition of social, cultural, and linguistical knowledge by colonial agents. In doing so, this research builds upon and aims to contribute to the larger fields of study in which it is embedded: West Papua within Dutch imperial history, the history of colonial missions, and the history of childhood.