Reinventing Museums in Southeast Asia from the Colonial to the National, the Regional to the Global
Time & LocationSession 9
Fri 09:00–10:30 Room 1.205
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- Curating the Sacred, Enchanting the Ordinary: Things, Practices, and Local Museums in Northeast Thailand Siriporn Srisinurai Thammasat University
This research examines problematic relationships between colonialism, knowledge, and curatorial practices as these relate to collections that are concerned, or linked, with “the sacred” in local museums in Northeast Thailand. Major arguments of this qualitative research are about seeing local museums as “museum entanglements” and “entangled museums.” Firstly, instead of seeing local museums as either “non-professional” or “non-western” museums, the research proposes to understand them as situated in the colonial contexts of Southeast Asia, and to see their practices as responses to, and interlocutors in dialogue with prior museums that collect and curate the same material collections, and have been influenced by colonialism and nationalism. Secondly, instead of seeing these local museums exclusively as “indigenous museums,” it proposes to see them as “entangled museums” that are a result of co-existences and interactions of different kinds of knowledge, which diversely derive from religion, magic, and science. In Northeast Thailand, curating sacred things such as religious statues, palm-leaf manuscripts, and standing stones, involves dealing with epistemic differences that lead to diverse dialogic practices dedicated to the sacred (e.g. merit making and worshipping). These practices sometimes appear alongside scientific museum practices (e.g. cataloguing, preservation, and exhibiting). Local museums, therefore, not only critique influences of nationalism and colonialism in institutional museums, they also reflect some alternatives and entanglements with museum knowledge from various sources. As such, they shed light on the diversity and dynamics of museums in relation to colonialism and its legacies.
- Reinventing Museums in the Context of Global Tourism: A Comparative Study of War-Related Museums in East Asia and Southeast Asia Bui Thanh Huong Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
Kaori Yoshida Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
With ever-increasing cross-border mobility, the entanglements between tourism and heritage are becoming extremely complex. The growing recognition of the material culture of the twentieth century has kept histories of war and hostility alive, constantly fueling feelings of anger, fear, and hatred. Recent development of museums in East and Southeast Asia demonstrates this trend. The memories of past human experiences are recalled through contemporary interactions with physical places and landscapes (Smith, 2006). Heritage also plays a majorly important part in the process of trying to distance independent Southeast Asian states from their former colonial powers (Hitchcock, King, & Parnwell, 2009). In many national museums, official narratives are highly selective, where the authorized attitudes to the past contribute to “the effort to create more purely nationalistic narratives” (Long, 2012, p. 212). Museums, as a source of power, are commonly used to build patriotism at the domestic level and potentially spread propaganda to international visitors (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). Our study investigates the discrepancies inherent in authorized narratives of war-related museums in East Asia (Japan and South Korea) and Southeast Asia (Vietnam and Cambodia). By comparing the official narratives of the same events across museums in different countries, this paper illustrates how international tourism contributes to the process of reinventing museums from national and regional levels, as well as the process of de-colonization through narratives in these museums.
- The Buddha in Glass Cases Justin McDaniel University of Pennsylvania
Over the past 30 years, there has been a proliferation in the number of small Buddhist museums throughout Asia and especially in Southeast Asia. While many of these museums are connected to individual monasteries and promote a highly specific vision of Buddhism in particular place, several have attempted to create ecumenical spaces and a comprehensive vision of the Buddhist past. This paper explores localism and translocalism in the formation of Buddhist museums, as well as the very idea of secular and pan¬-Asian ecumenical Buddhist museums outside of the sectarian affiliation of previous museums.
Characterized by their strategic location, colonial legacies, and newly industrialized and transnational economies, the mainland and maritime nations of Southeast Asia witnessed the emergence of museums in the 20th century, attesting to a robust if not profitable cultural infrastructure with tangible and intangible impact within and beyond the region. Inextricably linked to notions of progress, modern museums provided the necessary visibility, a projection of a decolonized, democratic, and developed nation. Yet the diverse ethnic, socio-economic, and political character of each nation challenged the narrative of nationalism, which, according to Benedict Anderson, “dreams of purities.” While state- sponsored museums unified discrepant material culture whose apotheosis was a distinct yet imagined national identity, recent curatorial and programmatic activities demonstrate the opposite to accommodate, integrate, and express multivalent citizenship, belonging, and meaning. Indeed, a greater cultural cooperation within and among nations has resulted in a dynamic exchange of ideas, objects, and labor. This panel seeks papers that explore the significant role of museums in Southeast Asia, considering their (trans)formation in a colonial, national, regional, and/or global context. Recognizing museums as (re)sources of power, we are interested in deepening our understanding of institutional policies and practices, such as acquisition, collection, preservation, exhibition, and education. Moreover, we wish to interrogate the contradictions inherent in this enterprise, as well as potential challenges and crises as contemporary art fairs and biennials take center stage.