SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Disjuncture, Interference and Critical Heritage: Reflections from the Field

Rasmi Shoocongdej (SOAS Centenary Fellow) in conversation with SOAS Professors Paul Basu, Rachel Harrison, Scott Redford, Ashley Thompson and PhD candidate Udomluck Hoontrakul

Date: 4 July 2017Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 4 July 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Seminar

Free Event. Please register here

The projection of historical continuity through the designation ‘heritage’ always betrays, in one way or another, its very opposite: historical disjunctures and interference in local affairs. Join SOAS Centenary Fellow, Professor Rasmi Shoocongdej, along with five respondents, to examine this paradox at the heart of the notion of ‘heritage’ and its ‘management’ today. Professor Shoocongdej, an archaeologist specializing in mainland Southeast Asian prehistory, will address the pressures of research harnessed to the promotion of ‘Thai Cultural Heritage’ in sites characterized today by multiple cultures and ethnic minority groups.

Professor Shoocongdej’s fieldwork focuses on borderlands between Thailand and Myanmar. Her research on prehistory is complemented by incisive contributions to important debates at the nexus of archaeology and the public sphere. Her pedagogical career, based at Thailand’s premier arts university, Silpakorn, has been devoted to training Thai and other Southeast Asian archaeologists through interregional programmes to assume positions of intellectual and ethical responsibility vis-à-vis their regions and their international partners. She is a crucial role model for Southeast Asian archaeologists and, more broadly, for Southeast Asian women considering pursuing academic careers.  

Professor Shoocongdej will address her twofold experience as a ‘Thai female archaeologist.’ On the one hand she represents the ‘elite centre’ – Bangkok’s Silpakorn – in researching prehistoric cultures of Thailand’s peripheral ‘highlands’, negotiating at once relations – or non-relations - between local communities and their prehistoric site surroundings, and the attendant expectations of nationalist historiography emanating from the entangled academic and political realms. On the other hand, she represents ‘indigenous perspectives’ to the international archaeological community intent on reconstructing Southeast Asia’s past, and dominated still by Euro-American actors and modes of inquiry.

A post event reception will take place in S113, Paul Webley Wing (Senate House, First Floor), from 17.00-18.00

Respondent Biographies

Paul Basu (Professor of Anthropology, SOAS)

Professor Basu’s research focuses on issues of cultural heritage, memory and material culture, with a regional specialism in West Africa. As a researcher, curator and consultant, he has extensive experience working with museums, and much of his work is concerned with exploring the ‘decolonial’ affordances of colonial archives and collections. Recently, Paul has been working in Nigeria, retracing the itineraries of the colonial anthropologist N. W. Thomas. His latest book is The Inbetweenness of Things: Materializing Mediation and Movement between Worlds, published by Bloomsbury.

Rachel Harrison (Professor of Thai Cultural Studies, SOAS)

Professor Harrison is a specialist of Thai Cultural Studies. Her work focuses on questions of gender and Southeast Asian identities anchored in cultural constructs. She has published widely on issues of gender, and sexuality, modern literature and cinema in Thailand as well as the comparative literature of South East Asia and has edited a volume of chapters by Thai authors on the question of Western theoretical approaches to Thai literary analysis. She is currently working on a research project in culture and public health relating to diet and disease in Northeast Thailand. 

Udomluck Hoontrakul (PhD Candidate, History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS)

Udomluck is a PhD candidate at SOAS and a lecturer in the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology of Thammasat University, Bangkok. Her research focuses on archaeology, museums, and cultural heritage. She has undertaken archaeological research in Thai-Burma border areas for nearly a decade and has conducted and participated in archaeological surveys and excavations in various regions in Thailand, the United States, the Philippines, and Cambodia.  

Scott Redford (Nasser D Khalili Professor of Islamic Art and Archaeology, SOAS)

Professor Redford specializes in the art, archaeology, and architecture of Anatolia and the eastern Mediterranean in the medieval period. He has participated in archaeological excavations and surveys in Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, and the United Arab Emirates. Before coming to SOAS he was  

The event will be chaired by Professor Ashley Thompson, Hiram W Woodward Chair in Southeast Asian Art, SOAS.

With the generous support of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme and the SOAS Centenary Team.


Organiser: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies

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