AD 1006 Geodeterminism: Cultures of Catastrophe and the Story of a Date
This chapter turns to the beginning of volcanology in the Netherlands East Indies and the anxieties of late colonialism. It traces the fate of the idea that medieval Javanese Hindu-Buddhist civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic eruption of Merapi in AD 1006. This idea became a way to naturalize the end of a culture and to explain the rise of Islam. Colonial scientists, in the twilight years of their own empire, explored imaginaries of radical environmental change, cultural impermanence, and geodeterminism. Theosophists, Javanese nationalists, aristocrats, Sanskritists, philologists, and volcano scientists trudged up and down the slopes of Merapi looking for mystical communion with the earth. Later mystical movements such as Subud took the mantle from the Theosophists. The idea of a massive catastrophe in AD 1006 persists.