The teaching and research remit of this new chair is the study of Southeast Asian popular culture, from music to theatre and film, and the crosslinks between the study of popular culture and that of mass violence. In this context, Keppy will investigate how global and local popular culture influence each other, what role mass media play in this context, which cultural elements the two cultures borrow from one another, what tensions arise between traditional and modern cultural attitudes, and what discussions concerning ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture emerge as a result. As part of his teaching and research remit, Keppy will conduct research on how people cope with psychological suffering (trauma) in the wake of mass political violence. Southeast Asia is a region with a long history of independence wars and internal mass violence as a result of politico-ideological, ethnical, regional, and religious contrasts in the postcolonial age. The concept of trauma has, just like popular music and junk food, also found its way to Southeast Asia, where it is subject to local interpretation. In response to inadequate social and medical care on the part of local governments, self-reliance, religion, and traditional medical practices, sometimes crosspollinated with Western medical ideas, play an important role in how people cope with suffering resulting mass political violence. This cultural dynamic with a political aspect plays a central role in Keppy’s research.
Keppy studied Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and defended his PhD thesis on non-Western history at VU Amsterdam. He published among other things on the restitution of stolen goods and compensation for damages after World War II in Indonesia and the Philippines, and more recently on the rise of modern popular culture in Indonesia and the Philippines in the late colonial period. He is currently working on a book about street justice and citizen watches in postcolonial Indonesia.
Keppy will remain affiliated with NIOD as a researcher. By accepting this chair, he will however retire as a member of the Pensioen- en Uitkeringsraad, the organisation responsible for implementing laws for Resistance members and victims of World War II.