HPS Colloquium: Matthew Minarchek


Location: Virtual

"Plantations, Peddlers, and Nature Protection: The Transnational Origins of Indonesia's Orangutan Crisis, 1910-1930"

This talk will examine the geographies and politics of the global trade in orangutans in the name of science and entertainment in the first half of the twentieth century, along the background of the growing international nature protection movement. This period saw the emergence of the trade in orangutans from Sumatra (Indonesia) as demands for the species increased among zoos, circuses, laboratories, and private collectors in Europe and North America. Scholars have highlighted how orangutans and other primates have for centuries captured the imaginations of natural historians and the public in the West and what those imaginings tell us about issues of race, gender, and politics in science and society. In this talk, I argue that the demand for and arrival of large numbers of orangutans in the West directly impacted material practices and decisions central to the Dutch colonial project, including the tightening of borders and surveillance in the ports and on land, as well as the creation of wildlife protection laws and policies that dispossessed Indigenous peoples of their lands. In other words, the socially constructed imaginings of primates in Europe and North America shaped the colonial project in Indonesia in very specific ways.

Matt is an ACLS Emerging Voices Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Notre Dame's John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values.

For more information, including the Zoom meeting ID, please contact Sam Hall (shall9@nd.edu).