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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)

(p.126) Chapter Six Cultural heritage as performance
Cultures of Decolonisation

Michael Falser

Manchester University Press

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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