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Ward Keeler


Current position: Professor, University of Texas at Austin, USA

During his AIAS-COFUND Fellowship, Ward Keeler has worked on the project ' When Hierarchy Ceases to Enchant'

AIAS Project 

I propose to write a book entitled When Hierarchy Ceases to Enchant that analyzes developments in the performing arts in three Southeast Asian societies where I have done fieldwork, namely, Java and Bali (in Indonesia), and Burma (Myanmar). My project brings together two realms of intellectual inquiry—the performing arts and contemporary politics—not to look for political content in the arts but rather to demonstrate how the arts give form to unstated but highly consequential assumptions about hierarchy. In all three societies, the classical arts have suffered serious declines in patronage and spectatorship. New genres, including soap operas and sporting events on television, have become much more popular. Religious performances (public sermons, textual readings, etc.) have also grown newly frequent and well-attended. The classical arts themselves have been radically modified, with the aim of attracting wider, younger audiences. I link these developments to recent social change that has diminished people’s confidence in the benefits of the hierarchical arrangements that used to organize people’s relations with power, and which the classical arts both illustrated and sustained. 

Project title: 

When Hierarchy Ceases to Enchant

Area of research:

The performing arts and contemporary social relations in Southeast Asia

Fellowship period:

1 Oct 2021 - 30 Sep 2022

Fellowship type

AIAS-COFUND II Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow

This fellowship has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 754513 and The Aarhus University Research Foundation.