UofG set to host conference on historic Indonesian stone inscriptions

Published: 5 September 2023

The University of Glasgow is set to play host to an international conference on the history and significance of two historic cultural artifacts from Indonesia.

The University of Glasgow is set to play host to an international conference on the history and significance of two historic cultural artifacts from Indonesia.
The Inscriptions on the Move conference brings together experts from the UK, Indonesia, France and the USA to discuss the Prasasti Sangguran and Pucangan, two stone inscriptions made in Java in the 10th and 11th century.
The inscriptions, written in Javanese and Sanskrit, were kept in Indonesia until the 19th century, when they were removed by the then-Governor of the Dutch East Indies, Stamford Raffles.
He shipped the Sangguran inscription to the Minto estate in the Scottish Borders, and the Pucangan to Kolkata, where they have remained ever since.

John Newman, “Ancient Monument & Inscription from Malang” (1812).

The conference will explore new research on the inscriptions in their early modern and modern contexts, including their role in colonial and post-colonial national imaginaries, ideas of cultural and environmental decline, changing conceptions of borders, territory, colony, and empire. 

 The conference will consider the history of campaigns for the restitution of artefacts to Indonesia, the repatriation of artworks from Scottish museums, and the shifting parameters of national narratives.
By connecting the deep history of the inscriptions to the present, early modern to modern Indonesia, Britain, and India, the workshop will highlight the fluidity and contested meaning of the inscriptions.
Dr Adam Bobbette, of the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences, is co-ordinating the conference.
His recently-published book, The Pulse of the Earth: Political Geology in Java, includes discussion of the stones as part of a wider examination of how modern theories of the earth emerged from the slopes of Indonesia’s volcanoes.
Dr Bobbette said: “The Prasasti Sangguran and Pucangan are fascinating pieces of history, which have a lot still to tell us about the history of Indonesia and Britain.
“The conference will explore many of those issues with input from leading experts around the world, including the stones’ possible record of volcanic catastrophe, aspects of ongoing efforts to create new translations of the inscriptions, which haven’t been updated in nearly a century, and the movement to repatriate the stones from Scotland and India back to Indonesia, which began in 2003.”
The Inscriptions on the Move conference will be held at the University of Glasgow’s Mazumdar-Shaw Advanced Research Centre on September 18th between 9am and 5pm.
The participants in the conference are:

  • Erika Anderson, Hunterian Museum, Curator of Minerology and Petrology
  • Dr Adam Bobbette, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow
  • Dr Sadiah Boonstra, Post-Doctoral Researcher at VU University Amsterdam
  • Prof Peter Carey, Facultas Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya, Universitas Indonesia
  • Dr Mekhola Gomes, History, Amherst College
  • Dr Bagus Muljadi, Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Jarrah Sastrawan, École Française d’Extrême-Orient
  • Dr Alexander Supartono, School of Arts and Creative Industries, Edinburgh Napier University
  • Farah Wardani, Curator
  • Professor Arlo Griffiths, École Française d’Extrême-Orient
  • Eko Bastiawan, Independent Researcher, Member of ERC DHARMA project

To book a place to attend either in-person or online, visit the University of Glasgow event listings pages.

First published: 5 September 2023