Josh Stenberg

Nov 12, 2020

Southeast Asian Performance, Ethnic Identity and China’s Soft Power

A Discussion with Dr Josh Stenberg

SSEAC Stories 2020

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From glove puppets of Chinese origin and Hakka religious processions, to wartime political theatre and contemporary choirs and dance groups, the diverse performance practices of ethnic Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia highlight the complexity of minority self-representation and sense of identity of a community that is often considered solely in socioeconomic terms. Each performance form is placed in its social and historical context, highlighting how Sino-Southeast Asian groups and individuals have represented themselves locally and nationally to the region's majority populations as well as to state power.

In this episode, Dr Josh Stenberg talks to Dr Natali Pearson about Sino-Southeast Asian self-representation in performance arts, and challenges essentialist readings of ethnicity or minority. In showing the fluidity and adaptability of Sino-Southeast Asian identities as expressed in performance and public display, Dr Stenberg enriches our understanding of Southeast Asian cultures and art forms, Southeast Asian Chinese identities, and transnational cultural exchanges.

Dr Josh Stenberg is a Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney. A scholar of Sino-Southeast Asian performance and literature, he examines the intersection of ethnic and political identity through the cultural performance of minority ethnic communities. He is the author of Minority Stages: Sino-Indonesian Performance and Public Display (University of Hawaii Press, 2019). In 2020, Dr Stenberg was awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) to conduct further research into the reception of China's state-funded cultural diplomacy initiatives among Overseas Chinese communities in multicultural societies.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website here.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.
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