Memory, heritage and commodification: the many sides of disaster tourism in Indonesia

Crawford School of Public Policy | Indonesia Project

Event details

Indonesia Study Group

Date & time

Wednesday 07 September 2022




Gabriele Weichart (University of Vienna)


Kate McLinton

Join in-person: McDonald Room, Menzies Library, 2 McDonald Place, ANU

Join online:
Webinar ID: 850 4235 3685
Passcode: 029070

About this seminar
Historically, local people’s experiences and knowledge regarding natural disasters have been largely unknown to the wider world. But especially since the tsunami of 2004, which had particularly devastating effects on the west coast of North Sumatra, a new politics of commemoration has emerged, motivated by the desire not to forget such collectively tragic and influential events, but to make experiences of disaster accessible and understandable to a wider public. Examples are the tsunami museum in Aceh, the ‘lava tours’ and exhibitions on the slopes of Mt. Merapi near Yogyakarta in central Java and the stone monuments at the Lapindo mud flow near Sidoarjo in eastern Java.
While these initiatives serve the purpose of remembering the destruction and suffering as well as the victims of these particularly severe disasters, there is also an economic incentive, which in some cases may even be the driving force. Regional governments, and sometimes also local entrepreneurs, have identified new possibilities for promoting affected areas as tourist attractions, including offering disaster ‘experiences’ with voyeuristic appeal to domestic and international visitors.
This seminar will investigate the commemoration of natural disasters in the context of Indonesia’s growing tourism industry, and also offer some reflections on how cultural differences in dealing with and responding to calamities and loss have figured in the commodification of disasters.

About Gabrielle Weichart
Gabrielle Weichart is a Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna. She has done extensive research in different regions of Indonesia and Australia and published on Indigenous art, vernacular architecture and food cultures. Her current interests include the commodification of cultural heritage and natural disaster as well as the interplay of consumption, gender and sociality in contemporary Indonesia.

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