Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

AIAS Seminar: Ward Keeler, AIAS Fellow

When Hierarchy Ceases to Enchant

2021.12.09 | AIAS

Date Mon 04 Apr
Time 14:15 15:30
Location AIAS Auditorium

Speaker: Ward Keeler, AIAS Fellow

Abstract

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 social and political relations. In all three societies in Southeast Asia where I have done fieldwork (Java, Bali, and Burma), the classical arts have suffered serious declines in patronage and spectatorship. They have been radically modified, with the aim of attracting wider, younger audiences. But 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. 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.  

Short bio

Ward Keeler is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in Southeast Asia, having conducted long-term fieldwork in Java and Bali (Indonesia) and Burma (Myanmar). He analyzes the performing arts, language, gender, and hierarchy. In addition to publishing books and articles on these topics, he has also sought to grant outsiders access to Indonesian and Burmese literature and music. He translated and published a recent Indonesian novel and co-produced CDs of Burmese classical music.   

See Ward Keeler's project at AIAS

What is an AIAS Seminar?

The AIAS Seminar is a session of seminars held by the AIAS fellow or by other speakers proposed by the fellows. In each seminar, one fellow will present and discuss his/her current research and research project, closing off with a question and discussion session.

All seminars are held in English.

Lecture / talk