Science, Technology, and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, October 29, 2018, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S050

"Nurturing Indonesia: Medicine and Decolonization in the Dutch East Indies"


Hans Pols, Associate Professor, School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.


Shana Ashar


Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

Lunch is provided if you RSVP via our online form by Thursday, October 25th


Through their studies, their medical practice, and their participation in the Association of Indonesian Physicians, Indonesian physicians in the Dutch East Indies developed and articulated a strong professional identity. The promises of modern medicine were important elements of this professional identity as it motivated them to develop critical perspectives on colonial society. These physicians participated in the various social, cultural, and political movements that made up what is now called the Indonesian nationalist movement. At various times, they criticised traditional culture, advocated public health measures and increases in funding for health, criticised income disparities between Indonesian and European physicians, and defended traditional culture and embraced it as a model for an alternate modernity for Indonesia. During the process of decolonisation, they transformed colonial medicine into a modern approach to maintain health, inspired by examples and connections all over the world.


Hans Pols is associate professor at the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. He is interested in the history of colonial medicine and the transformation medical research and practice underwent during the process of decolonisation. His research has focused on the Dutch East Indies and Indonesia, and on psychiatry and mental health. His book on the role of medicine in the process of decolonization in the Dutch East Indies has just been published by Cambridge University Press. Apart from investigating the history of mental health initiatives, he is currently involved in several projects that aim to shape the future of mental health care in Indonesia.