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Emilie Wellfelt New Guest Researcher at NIAS

Saturday, October 1, 2016 to Saturday, December 31, 2016

Emilie Wellfelt, historian/anthropologist, will be a guest researcher at NIAS in October-December 2016. Her research will be into the topic ‘Birds of Paradise: The role of trade skins to the introduction of Islam in the Spice Islands’.

I have a special interest in material culture and the ideas objects invoke. Mainly I have worked on Indonesian textiles as they are important objects in ritual and economic exchanges, and textile studies have the benefit of opening doors to women’s worlds. I speak Indonesian and have over the last two decades spent a lot of time in this fascinating and multifaceted country.
  In the last few years I have worked on two projects. The first was my PhD research, for which I recently defended my thesis entitled Historyscapes in Alor. This work moves in the borderlands between history and anthropology exploring oral traditions and indigenous knowledge systems among different ethno-linguistic groups on the island of Alor, in southeastern Indonesia. Apart from the empiric contribution I have developed a methodology to handle history that is oral, place- and object-oriented, as opposed to – or rather complementary to – western chronological history based on written archives. I did my PhD at Linnaeus University where I am still associated with Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies.
  The second project entitled ‘Roos & Ruins: A project to document the Ujir language of the Aru Islands’ funded by Volkswagen Stiftung is an interdisciplinary enterprise concerned with documenting the language, culture and history of Ujir, a community in the Aru Islands, the far eastern fringe of Indonesia, between New Guinea and Australia. Historically, Ujir is interesting as it is the easternmost reach of an early spread of Islam into Island Southeast Asia.     
  The research I am doing at NIAS brings together different strands of my interests, while being a rather specific study. I am investigating the potential role of the Bird of Paradise to the introduction of Islam in the Spice Islands (Maluku) in the 15th-16th centuries.
Please feel free to contact me in person or by email: