Performing Culture: Art and Performance for Coming to Know and Expressing Knowledge in the Social Sciences
Location Brunei Gallery - B204
Date and Start Time 02 Jun, 2018 at 14:30
Sessions 2


  • Anita Datta (University of Durham) email

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Short abstract

This panel explores the possibilities of coming to know and expressing social science knowledge through performance and reflections on artistic output. What complexities can be communicated through the rapprochement of culture and artistic expression, of academic and creative selves?

Long abstract

"How do we come to know, and how do we express that knowing?" (Neilsen 2008:385). Creative engagements with artistic modes of expression and performance offer a complex means of knowing and expressing knowledge that is always paradoxically contextual and abstract, subjective and objective, exploratory and organized, person and dialectical. This knowing is deeply human, and may be linked to complex and abstract feelings and concepts such as culture, memory, and the self. Despite increasing theoretical openness to complexity and chaos, the social sciences have traditionally privileged objectivity over subjectivity, the rational over the emotional, and theory over experience (Montuori 2003). What possible expressions can art/performance as a subject, mode and method of research return to the restricted verbal and literary code of traditional social science? To what extent could creative material restore or supplement the complexities and nuances of social life and human experience that are lost in the moment of theorisation? What can experiments with art and performance tell us about cultural, emotional and social knowledge? Through performance and reflections upon artistic modes of expression, this panel explores the possibilities for developing a complex and nuanced social science knowledge practise through the rapprochement of culture and artistic expression, of academic and creative selves (Douglas 2012).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Orien-Thai-ism: Thailand Through the Eyes of Western Artists

Author: Dale Konstanz (Mahidol University International College) email

Short abstract

Artworks created by prominent Western artists during their visits to Thailand will be analyzed in order to understand how the culture has been interpreted. The objective is to determine whether or not these artworks reinforce stereotypes and common misconceptions of Thai culture.

Long abstract

Although the influence of Asian cultures and Eastern practices on Western art has been widely investigated, Orientalists have most often focused on Japan and China. Few art historians seem to be aware of the fact that a number of prominent artists from the West have also been inspired by the rich culture of Thailand. Internationally-recognized artists, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Brice Marden, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Marina Abramović, Martin Parr, Vivian Maier, and Andreas Gursky have all traveled to this Southeast Asian nation and have produced work based on what they encountered here. In the artworks, a variety of concepts related to Thai society, customs, and beliefs have been explored. In addition, Thai motifs, components of Buddhist art, and other distinctively Thai elements have been incorporated into the work. Furthermore, some of the artists have been influenced by the natural surroundings or the built environment of Thailand.

Specific artworks created by these Western artists during or immediately after their visits to Thailand will be analyzed in order to understand how the culture has been interpreted. The objective is to determine whether or not these particular artworks reinforce stereotypes of Thai culture and rely on clichés and common misconceptions. Since the work was created by highly perceptive artists in the late 20th Century and beyond, Thai culture has generally been portrayed with fresh, new perspectives. Yet, since the visits were short-term, theoretically it was not feasible for these artists to express a truly deep understanding of Thai culture through their work.

The making of hip hop in late socialism

Author: Sandra Kurfürst (University of Cologne) email

Short abstract

In Vietnam, the autonomy of art is determined by state censorship, and market economic forces. The paper zooms in on the modes of production of Vietnamese Hip Hop. It suggests, that the collaboration between artists and the state is characterized by "cooperation without consensus" (Star 1993).

Long abstract

This paper examines the making of Hip Hop in late socialism. In contemporary Vietnam, the autonomy of art is both determined by state censorship, and market economic forces. In fact, the transcultural flows of Hip Hop only entered Vietnam in the 1990s with the country's integration into the global economy. At first, the socialist state critically observed the cultural practices of b-boying and b-girling, making them subject to censorship. However, with its appeal to the crowd, both in the form of entertainment, and as a physical activity, -boying/b-girling has increasingly come to be promoted and supported by the state. State organized battles take place throughout the country, while Hip Hop dance shows are broadcast on national TV with Vietnam's most popular b-boys and b-girls acting as hosts, judges and trainers. What is more, the verbal art of MCing has experienced a semantic shift in Vietnam. First considered as a practice associated with violence mainly practiced by males, MCing is more and more performed by young females, who put their lyrics in conversation with local discourses about society. Against this background, the paper zooms in on the modes of production of Vietnamese Hip Hop, taking into consideration single actors as well as institutions. It suggests, that the collaboration between the Hip Hop communities of practice and the state is characterized by "cooperation without consensus" (Star 1993).

Orientalist Opera in the 21st Century

Author: Anita Datta (University of Durham) email

Short abstract

Modern productions of classic ‘Orientalist’ operas have recently been problematized by the media and those in the industry – but not everyone agrees it’s a problem. What tensions are generated when contemporary values about racial, ethnic and cultural representation clash with those of the past?

Long abstract

The Operatic oeuvre is replete with representations of non-Western others, many of which were intentionally exotic and ‘orientalist’ at the time of their creation. Works including Madame Butterfly, Lakmé, The Pearl Fishers and Aida continue to be produced and reproduced throughout the world, and with them many representations of racial and cultural otherness that have sometimes raised criticism in today’s world. Through ethnomusicological analysis techniques and interviews with those currently working in the industry, the author considers different approaches to these works and representations of otherness in recent opera productions. What are we to do with the Orientalist operas in the 21st century, and how does this interact with contemporary debates about diversity and representation more widely? This analysis leads to the notion of a ‘temporal moral relativism’, in which contemporary audiences are challenged to consolidate apparently changed perspectives on race and cultural otherness with the values of a former era, enshrined and perpetuated through art.

Performing Out of Limbo: Reflections on Doing Anthropology through Music with Oromo Refugees in Indonesia

Authors: Rhino Ariefiansyah (Universitas Indonesia) email
Dave Lumenta (Universitas Indonesia) email
Betharia Nurhadist (Universitas Indonesia) email

Short abstract

This is an anthropological reflection non-programmatic collaborative music project between refugee community and local Indonesian anthropologist, students and musician. It follows the way the project evolved from a simple academic research opportunity into a mutual transformation of those involved.

Long abstract

This article is an anthropological reflection on an on-campus collaborative music project between (Ethiopian) Oromo refugees and local Indonesian university teaching staff, students and professional musicians. It follows the way the project evolved from what was initially seen as a simple academic research opportunity and technical assistance for refugees to record their songs into a mutually transformative experience for those involved. It reflects on the process and the way art—as a collaborative practice and non-programmatic form of human engagement—provided new possibilities for the refugees living in transit in Indonesia to explore their talents and possible career opportunities for the future. From an anthropological point of view, the process challenged the various institutionalized binary modes of self-representation, such as 'host' and 'migrant', 'researcher' and 'informant', or 'academic' and 'non-academic', and opened up new possibilities for negotiating and framing relationships between the participants involved.

Planeta Pel: Creating tradition

Authors: Sonia Megias email
Eva Guillamon email

Short abstract

Planeta Pel is the result of four years of research and rehearsal of Spanish duet Dúa de Pel, formed by poet Eva Guillamón and composer Sonia Megías. Our scales, rythms, meters and instruments help us to dig into the roots of different cultures all over the world.

Long abstract

Dúa de Pel is a literary-musical duet that plunges into the roots of tradition to reinvent it with lyrics by poet Eva Guillamón and music by composer Sonia Megías. They involved in this project moved by curiosity to go beyond, or behind, recovering a music that seems to come from the Earth's crust. Their works are a deep listening exercise that connects us with a continuous present from yesterday to tomorrow. They usually sing a cappella or with a primitive instrumental accompaniment, which surrounds this very unusual group in an ancestral aura, almost magical, hard to define or classify.

Planeta Pel is a project full of the telluric force of a planet Earth in danger of extinction. The songs, influenced by spanish traditional music, intermingle with the poems along a trip to another place, to another planet, perhaps, by means of the polyphony of their voices, and the deepness of their poems that are a mirror of that world that lag behind's life in this timeless trip that is Planeta Pel.

Modal music, irregular meters, rich and assorted percussion far away from pop or classical music. Our instruments come from all over the world:

SPAIN - Square tambour, mortar, lute.

ASIA - Melodyhorn (Japan), cymbals (India).

AMERICA - Wooden spoons (Brazil), round tambour (Guatemala), egg-shaker (Latin America).

Our sung talk has been presented in places such as the New York University, the Juilliard School of Music (NYC), the Cervantes Institute of Beijing (China), the SIAS University (China) or the University of Quilmes (Argentina).

Practising Authenticity: Singing and/as Listening

Author: Anjeline de Dios (Lingnan University, Hong Kong) email

Short abstract

This paper-performance proposes listening to oneself while singing as a productive practice with which to negotiate conflicting imperatives of multiple subjectivities.

Long abstract

What emerges in the act of singing to oneself, especially when one's sense of that self is shaped by individual and racial-cultural boundaries of what "authentic" singing should be? How might listening to oneself while singing reveal the work of authenticity as embodied, provisional, difficult, and vital? This paper-performance reflects on the intimate practice of singing and/as listening, and proposes that it offers a site of reckoning with multiple subjectivities.

I present two instances of critical reflection. In the first I consider the findings of my research on migrant Filipino musicians, whose singing, valued for the imitative and affective capacities of entertainment, is framed by larger infrastructures of contemporary labour migration and colonial cultural history. In the second, I share/sing insights as a performer and facilitator of improvised chant with Manila-based artists in contemporary dance and music. In both registers, I propose that listening to oneself in song, whether alone or with others, offers an ambiguous but productive space in which to engage the lived aspirations of authenticity, whilst continually reconciling conflicting imperatives of the self in contemporary contexts of cultural identity.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.