SEAARC Symposium Abstract 11: “In Search of Epistemic Principles for the Study of Indonesian Architectural History”

by Assoc. Prof. Iwan Sudradjat, Institut Teknologi Bandung

In the study of Indonesian architectural history today, questions of epistemology occupy a capacious and curiously confined analytic space. On the one hand, much of the categories and concepts (taxonomies, historical periods, knowledge clustering) remain strongly guided by colonial epistemic principles, which potentially create inconsistencies and incoherencies to the rationality of contemporary corpus of works. On the other hand, attempts are barely made by the architectural scholars in the country to establish clear and shared epistemic commitments as legitimate bases for their scientific endeavors.

This paper will examine the lived epistemic space of Indonesian architectural history today, raise issues of concern, open up new perspectives and relevant considerations, in order to consciously depart from colonial epistemic supremacy and overcome impasses that impeded the formation of appropriate and justifiable epistemological principles for the study of Indonesian Architectural History today. The outcomes will be a ground breaking overview and a suggested approach, rather than a detailed exhaustive analysis.

The foundational questions will be: What are the underlying epistemic principles of current Indonesia architectural historical practices? What are the epistemic problems that confront Indonesia architectural historians? What are the intellectual tasks of the study of Indonesian Architectural history today? How to instigate a seismic shift from current colonial legacies to more valid epistemic principles?


Iwan Sudradjat is Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture, School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Indonesia. He received his PhD in theory and history of architecture from Sydney University in 1991, for a thesis entitled “A Study of Indonesian Architectural History”. He is lecturing in architectural history, theory and criticism, and supervising master and PhD thesis on these subjects. His research interest includes historiography of Indonesian architecture, gender and architecture, and architectural research methods. He serves as a member of editorial boards for several international and local scientific journals. He has served as Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Policy Development, Institut Teknologi Bandung in 2006 to 2010.

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