Volcano Observatories: Proximity and Distance in Science and Mysticism
This chapter considers the significance of volcano observatories as contact zones between volcanology, geopolitics, and the Javanese ethno-nationalist mystical movement Kejawen (Javanism). The chapter explores the development and evolution of one observatory and its bunker on Merapi that functioned as a place where new technologies contributed to shifting conceptions of the human body, earth, and communication. The chapter also examines how observatories were places through which the Indonesian, French, and other states could operate at rural frontiers to manage political crises. Kejawen had its roots in the late colonial spiritual geographies of Central Java, Theosophy, and mystical Islam, and observatories became sites at which Kejawen practitioners struggled with imaginaries of the Republic, infrastructure, and volcanism. As much as observatories were architectures of the state, they were also places where ideas about spatial and temporal proximity, waves, pulses, the body and the cosmos were negotiated.