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Cultures of DecolonisationTransnational productions and practices, 1945-70$
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Ruth Craggs and Claire Wintle

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719096525

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719096525.001.0001

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Cultural heritage as performance

Cultural heritage as performance

Re-enacting Angkorian grandeur in postcolonial Cambodia (1953–70)

Chapter:
(p.126) Chapter Six Cultural heritage as performance
Source:
Cultures of Decolonisation
Author(s):

Michael Falser

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719096525.003.0006

The topos of inheriting the built legacy of the temples of Angkor (9th to 13th centuries CE) had been a vital element of the French-colonial civilizing mission in Cambodia from 1863 onwards. Yet this claim on ‘cultural heritage’ (or cultural inheritance) was subject to a novel ideological twist when Cambodia became independent in 1953. The classic ‘salvage paradigm’ once practiced by the European colonial power was now appropriated by the newly independent, quasi-‘Neo-Angkorian’ nation state (1954–1970). In this chapter, three different scenarios of this process are discussed: first, the reinvention (as continuation) of the genealogical and religious tradition of the ancient Khmer kings as central element of a new Buddhist socialism of the Non-Aligned country of Cambodia; second, the revival of the grandeur of the built Angkorian antiquity in a modern-day architectural interpretation in vast building programmes for the new-old capital of Phnom Penh and the provinces under state architect Vann Molyvann; and third, the staging of various cultural performances and re-enactments è la Angkorienne within Sihanouk’s strategies of cultural diplomacy, both inside Cambodia with sound-and-light shows inside the Archaeological Park of Angkor, and around the globe through the king’s private Royal Khmer Ballet.

Keywords:   Cultural diplomacy, Performance, Re-enactment, Cultural heritage, Angkor, Decolonisation, Architecture, Archaeology

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