Performance in post-conflict Cambodia (Dr Amanda Rogers

Dr Amanda Rogers is developing research that builds on a renewed emphasis on creative practice in contemporary geopolitics. Specifically, this project examines the transnational geopolitics influencing contemporary Cambodian performance, focussing on the extent to which NGOs and aid agencies enable innovations in classical dance forms. Classical Khmer dance is often discussed in relation to its reconstruction using foreign aid in the wake of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), locking artists into a dependency relationship that fails to cultivate innovation. Conversely, the return of diaspora artists to Cambodia is often depicted as the driving force in contemporising classical dance, as in the work of Sophiline Cheam Shapiro. This project brings these perspectives together to critically assess how NGOs and foreign donors support companies and individuals experimenting with classical dance forms, the adaptations in creative practice and Khmer identity that result, and the political tensions that surround such backing. 

In particular, the project situates contemporary Cambodian performance in transnational flows of creative practice, people and ideas that complicate the nationalistic framing of much existing literature. It examines the role played by NGOs and aid agencies in developing transnational collaborative partnerships, considering how their involvement may, or may not, promote creative experimentation. High-profile activities are not neutral as they can be used to develop donor relationships after a loss of aid during the global economic recession. As result, the type of innovation promoted through performance is inevitably influenced by the politics of financial relations and the geographical imaginations and cultural-creative expectations of aid agencies. This project analyses these dynamics, developing emerging lines of geographical inquiry that address how creative practice is embroiled in geopolitical issues and providing broader insights into the tensions that surround the development of post-conflict performance. 

To date, this research has been funded by ASEASUK-British Academy. For further information please contact Dr Amanda Rogers.