Raffles and the Ruins of Empire

The Politics of Art in Southeast Asia Seminar Series


About the Seminar

When Raffles wrote his landmark publication The History of Java in 1817, ruins represented far more than just the architectural detritus of a former age. The remains of past civilisations stimulated philosophical and melancholic meditations on the rise and decline of empire. Ruins were witnesses to the fall, humbling and disturbingly prophetic prompts to speculation on imperial failure, and the remains of Java’s Buddhist and Hindu monuments proved no exception. This talk examines not only the picturesque appeal of the ruin illustrations that were included in The History of Java, but also the role that they played in promoting Raffles’s aspirations for British imperial rule in the region.

About the Speaker

Dr Sarah Tiffin is an independent Australian-based scholar interested in depictions and descriptions of Southeast Asia in British art and creative literature of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Formerly a Curator of Asian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Sarah is the author of Southeast Asia in Ruins: Art and Empire in the Early 19th Century (NUS Press, 2016) which was shortlisted for the International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize in the Humanities 2017 and longlisted for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History 2017. She has recently contributed a chapter on the 1682 Embassy from Banten (Java) to the Court of Charles II for Laos and Beyond (forthcoming, NIAS Press) and is currently working on a study of the upas or poison tree of Java in British art and literature of the long 19th century.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to iseasevents2@iseas.edu.sg by 7 December 2018.


Dec 10 2018


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2