Returning Southeast Asia's Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution

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Edited by Louise Tythacott and Panggah Ardiyansyah

With contributions from Gabrielle Abbe, Jos van Beurden, Socheat Chea, John Clarke, Charlotte Galloway, Chanraksmey Muong, Duyen Nguyen, Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, Melody Rod-ari, and Wieske Octaviani Sapardan

The last 150 years has seen extensive looting and illicit trafficking of Southeast Asia's cultural heritage. Art objects from the region were distributed to museums and private collections around the world. But in the 21st century, power relations are shifting, a new awareness is growing, and new questions are emerging about the representation and ownership of Southeast Asian cultural material located in the West.

This book is a timely consideration of object restitution and related issues across Southeast Asia, bringing together different viewpoints including from museum professionals and scholars in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – as well as Europe, North America and Australia. The objects themselves are at the centre of most narratives - from Khmer art to the Mandalay regalia (repatriated in 1964), Ban Chiang archaeological material and the paintings of Raden Saleh. Legal, cultural, political and diplomatic issues involved in the restitution process are considered in many of the chapters; others look at the ways object restitution is integral to evolving narratives of national identity. The book's editors conclude that restitution processes can transform narratives of loss into opportunities for gain in building knowledge and reconstructing relationships across national borders.

"Every Southeast Asian country has a different experience of the loss of antiquities, but we all share in the deeply-felt benefits of contemporary restitution initiatives. This book makes an important contribution to bringing these questions out into the open."
- Dr. Phoeurng Sackona, Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Cambodia

“Approaching historic inequality through the lens of material culture provides fascinating insight into the dynamics of visual art and power… Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums and Restitution is an interesting, well-researched book which explores how museum collections reflect the colonial ideologies of the people who assembled them.” - Fiona Collins, Asian Review of Books

Louise Tythacott is Professor of Curating and Museology at SOAS University of London.

Panggah Ardiyansyah is an MPhil/PhD student of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS University of London.

Publication year: 2021
320 pp / 235 X 187mm
54 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978-981-325-124-3

Series: Art and Archaeology of Southeast Asia: Hindu-Buddhist Traditions

NUS Press (with the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme, SOAS University of London)