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In Session: Performative Traditions of Southeast Asia
The Intersectionality of Cultural Heritage in Cambodian Performing Arts
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Stephanie S. Khoury
Tufts University, United States
Cultural heritage is crucial to the representation of communities and nations; it enhances recognition of their existence and sovereignty. Yet, for many nations in the Global South, culture is also a domain where foreign influence is common, through the demands of global capitalism, the vestiges of colonialism, orientalism, global ideas of staging and formal aesthetics, and through various forms of international aid that support the promotion of selected performing arts. This is particularly salient in the aftermath of colonial domination, armed conflicts, political upheavals, and/or radical shifts in governance. Relying on the contemporary developments of Cambodian performing arts as intangible cultural heritage, I ask what dynamics, influences, and networks of interactions craft particular performing arts as an embodiment of national cultural heritage? What are the actors and factors at play in this process? What forms of artistic resistance and social appropriation have developed through these artforms? This analysis considers historical, cultural, political, and economic forces, along with artistry and artists’ agency to be cumulative and interlocking. By applying an intersectional lens, I show how performances of intangible heritage are entangled in complex webs of power that bring together the multiple facets of a society, linking the individual to the collective, the past to the present, and the local to the global. This line of inquiry highlights inequalities of cultural representation between the Global North and Global South, including the symbolic feminization of Asia by former colonial powers and artists’ double-consciousness.