Communication, Technology, and Environment in the Indian Ocean World

Date: 2 November 2023
Time: 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET
Location: Zoom
Presented by: The Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School

Join the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School (SoFCB) for a free virtual symposium, which will explore lithographic printing, and its materials and production processes in a nineteenth-century Malay world (1826–1900).

This event was held on 2 November 2023. See below for a link to the YouTube recording.

The eastward diffusion of lithographic technology in the nineteenth century–specifically on a hand press–was not a clean, linear historical process. In Batavia, for instance, the earliest known lithographic hand press was initially imported by Dutch missionaries in 1826. However, technological acclimatization of lithography to indigenous Muslim sensibilities in the Malay world was a drawn-out parallel process, influenced less by literature that Protestant missionaries printed (which emulated the visual idiom of Malay manuscripts) and more by the waves of print-technological change happening in Ottoman domains, the Arabian Peninsula, and the commercial bazaars of the Indian subcontinent. This symposium aims to highlight localized innovations developed in the unique cultural environs of the Malay world, and will specifically examine methods, technical processes, and materials used in Malay lithography. This event will shed light on the actions of anonymous individuals who labored in the production of these printed objects as well as the moments in which Islamicate, Muslim-Malay, and Western traditions of bookmaking and printing dovetailed and co-existed.

Rianne Subijanto is Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York, and an SoFCB Junior Fellow. Her research interests are in the history of communication technology, Southeast Asian studies, history of colonialism and imperialism, and communication and the environment. Her first book, Communication against Capital: Red Enlightenment at the Dawn of Indonesia (under contract with Cornell University Press), explores the production of revolutionary communication—from newspapers, public meetings, and schools to sailors as messengers—in the anticolonial struggles against Dutch occupation in Colonial Indonesia in 1920s.

Sonia Das is Associate Professor in Linguistic Anthropology at New York University and an SoFCB Junior Fellow. Among other projects, she has studied the ideological effects of printing technologies in mid-nineteenth century colonial French India, and has identified how a short-lived trade in French-Tamil bilingual books between various French colonies and the metropole manifested during this brief time. She draws on linguistic anthropological theories to analyze these events as interdiscursive processes enabled by failing colonial policies involving printing and educational initiatives connecting Indian and Atlantic Oceans worlds.

Wei Jin Darryl Lim (moderator) is a Singaporean historian of books and printing. He is currently an Early Career Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies, working on a project titled “Impressions from ‘beyond the Ganges’: a print-material survey of publications and ephemera, printing processes and labour of the London Missionary Society’s Ultra Ganges Mission, 1815–1842,” His research remit is on lithography and typography in the Malay world, and examines the topic in relation to regional histories of the book in Southeast Asia, the global histories of printing, and the technical aspects of print technology. His doctoral thesis, completed at the University of Reading’s Department of Typography and Graphic Communication examined the global and transregional networks of lithographic printing in the Malay world, with a focus on the printing defects and paratextual marks found in Malay lithographed publications, and the uses of lithography by expatriate and indigenous communities during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Click here to learn more about the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School.

You are invited to watch the November 2023 recording of the event below via our RBS YouTube channel.