Accepted Paper:

The Process of Preservation and Re-construction of Musical Heritage in Contemporary Cambodia  
Francesca Billeri (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

This talk aims to show the ways in which the Cambodian intangible cultural heritage, with a focus on traditional music and theatre genres, is shaped, promoted and restored by local NGOs and performers from different ages and backgrounds in an effort to re-construct the Khmer cultural identity.

Paper long abstract:

The on-going process of preservation and revival of traditional performing arts in Cambodia leads to a phenomenon of canonization of music; this heritage building process can be defined as the use of music as a trait of cultural identity in order to characterize local communities within a larger nation and, at the same time to foster economic process of which local communities may benefit. It is a controversial trend that implies nationalistic views and the freezing of cultural process with the aim of keeping repertoires and practices that are gradually disappearing with a different function. Connected to this issue is the term of heritage including the controversial action of UNESCO with its Intangible Cultural Heritage. Despite the community and non-government sector efforts to restore and protect traditional performing arts, many traditional musical genres are endangered. It is estimated that 90% of the Khmer artist were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime and those alive are few in number. In addition to the limited knowledge for traditional arts, the rapid process of social and technological change, urbanisation and modernisation draw the cultural crisis of Khmer arts sector. UNESCO attributes the endangerment and disappearance of intangible cultural expressions to "long-lasting conflicts, the declining number of performers and the clear tendency among the younger generation to cultural influences from outside the country". This talk aims to show the ways in which the intangible cultural heritage is shaped and restored by local NGOs and performers in an effort to re-construct the Khmer cultural identity.

Panel P063
Heritage, beyond materiality: intangible cultural heritage, collaborative methodologies and imaginations of the future