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DOI : 10.60527/wm52-s556
Citer cette ressource :
EHESS. (2024, 31 mai). Zooming In: Children as Guides and Informants in Merauke, West Papua (Colonial Netherlands New Guinea), 1905-1910 , in Photography as a source for social history. [Vidéo]. Canal-U. (Consultée le 24 juillet 2024)

Zooming In: Children as Guides and Informants in Merauke, West Papua (Colonial Netherlands New Guinea), 1905-1910

Réalisation : 31 mai 2024 - Mise en ligne : 25 juin 2024
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Reichgelt Marleen, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands


At the heart of this presentation is the presence of Papuan children in photographs taken by
Dutch Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Netherlands New Guinea (present-day West
Papua, Indonesia) in the early twentieth century. Departing from the simple but critical realisation
that ‘children were there too’ afforded by the act of digitally zooming in on high-definition scans of
photographs, this article attempts to methodologically ‘zoom in’ on traces of children acting
intermediaries in other sources in the colonial archive as well. Inspired by Ariella Azoulay, I use the
active presence of children as historical subjects participating in processes of colonisation in the
photographs to offset the dominant missionary discourse which presented children as passive objects
of adult governing – thus obscuring how the mission depended on the knowledge, skills, and networks
of these children. Engaging the paradox of absence and presence of colonised children in both visual
and textual sources in the colonial archive, three different intermediary roles adopted by children
involved with the Catholic mission are analysed: guiding and escorting the missionaries when
travelling, assisting the missionaries in daily chores, and instructing the missionaries in the local
language and customs.

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