Alexander Silaen, BEd MA

Alexander Silaen

Alexander Silaen, BEd MA

Universitätsring 1
1010 Wien

T: +43-1-4277-40821

 u:find - Information about

Curriculum Vitae


  • Curriculum Vitae
    • Since February 2024: Prae-Doc at the Department of History, University of Vienna 
    • Since November 2023: Project assistant for the "On the Colonial Entanglement History of Sound Recordings" project at the Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences
    • 2023 University Assistant at the Department of History (parental leave replacement), University of Vienna
    • 2022 Master's Program History and Philosophy of Science, University of Vienna, graduated with honors 
    • 2020-2021 Tutor for The Introduction to the Study of Ethics and Rhetoric and Argumentation Theory for Teaching, Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna 
    • 2020 Darmasiswa Language and Culture Studies in Yogyakarta with focus on Indonesian history and politics, University of Gadjah Mada, graduated with honors
    • 2019 Bachelor's Program in Teaching History, Social Studies, and Political Education Psychology and Philosophy, University of Vienna



  • Research Interests
    • Decolonial Epistemologies
    • Plantation Economies
    • Animal/Environmental Studies
    • Colonial Histories of Anthropology
    • Ethnology and Mission
  • Projects

    Dissertation Project: Experimental Stations and Plantation Economies in Sumatra: Epistemologies of Colonial Damage

    In my dissertation, I focus on the colonial system of experimental stations in Indonesia in the 1880s to 1930s of the Gregorian calendar. More specifically, I analyze colonial research on tobacco plantations and the insects that were part of this imported ecology. The latter were classified as "pests", highlighting the destructive effects they manifested at the colonial intersection of entomological, agrochemical, botanical, tropical agricultural, and forestry-related knowledge production. The project analyzes the practices of sustaining colonial plantation economies and the resistances of non-human and human actors through the epistemological category of “damage”. It draws on current approaches in colonial history, such as subaltern studies, and animal studies.

    In my work, I will address questions regarding how and by whom damage is conceptualized, which dimensions of an ecosystem are factored into colonial damage calculations, and how these calculated damages can be interpreted as forms of resistance. My sources include local Sumatran newspapers written in different languages such as Batak, Malay. The Deli research station issued knowledge in various genres such as bulletins, manuals, letters, pamphlets, so-called 'pest boards' (Schädlingstafeln), journals and photo albums. Another major source are the scientific journals of the research stations.

    Furthermore, various language archives are incorporated into the work. The goal of the dissertation is to present ecological histories that challenge anthropocentrism, contributing to a broader understanding of plantation economies, the scientification of colonial practices, and histories of resistance.


    Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

    "On the Colonial Entanglement History of Sound Recordings" project at the Phonogrammarchiv of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

    Links to the Project:

  • Conference Organisation
    • »The Metrics of Energy: Accounting for Nature in the History of Social Sciences and Ecological Economics«, together with Marco Vianna Franco, in Collaboration with the IHS Vienna, 15th and 16th Juni 2023
    • »Skalen, Normen, Grenzwerte im (digitalen) Wandel«, Arrangement of the Annual Meetings of the GWMT and GTG together with the Vienna Museum of Science and Technology (17th to 19th September 2021)


Publications in u:cris

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Activities in u:cris

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Rethinking Colonial Exploitation of Sex Work and Resistance: Javanese Women's Experiences on Tobacco Plantations in Colonial Sumatra (1880-1930)

Alexander Silaen
Association of Asian Studies in Asia Conference - Global Asias: Latent Histories, Manifest Impacts
Conference, Talk or oral contribution
10.7.2024 - 10.7.2024

Music, coloniality, and institutions

Alexander Silaen
On Music, Racism, and Coloniality
Panel discussion, round table, Talk or oral contribution
12.3.2024 - 12.3.2024

Archives and Museums: Navigating Coloniality, Dependency, and Co-operation in the Context of Rudolf Pöch's “Collections”

Alexander Silaen
Advanced Seminar des Phonogrammarchivs der ÖAW “(Re)Contextualizing and Recirculating Historical Sound Recordings: Experiences and Approaches”
Conference, Talk or oral contribution
12.12.2023 - 12.12.2023

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