Global Modernities and Post-Traditional Shadow Puppetry in Contemporary Southeast Asia

Matthew Cohen

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Under global modernity, Southeast Asian shadow puppet theatre is being re-worked in art galleries, the internet, community arts contexts, intermedial collaborations and festivals. Even while cultural conservatives mourn vanishing traditions, a generation of Southeast Asian practitioners are seizing the codes of performance culture, inhabiting received forms and re-making them to speak to both local particularities and global issues. These post-traditional artists mine traditions for political parody and carnivalesque revelry, violating the sacred aura of puppets to assert their own authorship and critique heritage discourse and development policies. Puppeteers fashion new performance genres, ephemeral creations re-negotiating connections between the local and the global. Animators and game designers re-work the figures, performance dynamics, and stories of shadow play traditions in digital milieus. Such abductions and radical interpretations stoke debates about cultural identity and patrimony, aesthetic norms and moral values, individual agency and collective creativity, postcolonial exoticism and the politics of recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-206
Number of pages19
JournalThird Text
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2017

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