Yunci Cai

Staging Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia: Instrumentalisation, Brokerage, Representation

Staging Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia: Instrumentalisation, Brokerage, Representation

This thesis examines the politics of heritage-making in Malaysia, focusing on the development of indigenous cultural villages, which have become increasingly prevalent in both West and East Malaysia. Based on ethnographic field research at four case study cultural villages – the Mah Meri Cultural Village and Orang Seletar Cultural Centre in Peninsular Malaysia, and the Monsopiad Cultural Village and Linangkit Cultural Village in East Malaysia, it explores the political, economic, and social dynamics surrounding the process of heritage-making at these four indigenous cultural villages, and considers the outcomes of the instrumentalisation. Drawing on the politics of instrumentalisation as a conceptual framework and expanding it to incorporate other dynamics relating to brokerage, staging and representation, it demonstrates how these indigenous cultural villages are beset with issues of brokerage, tensions over the representation of cultural heritage, and conflicting motivations over the instrumentalisation of the cultural heritage, in which politics of brokerage and representation dominated, reproducing structural inequalities that reinforce the dependency of indigenous communities on external and internal brokers rather build capacity for self-determination and empowerment. The cynical interpretation that indigenous cultural practices have been instrumentalised to serve certain economic, political, and social agendas is then complicated through an exploration of several counter-narratives and anti-discourses, particularly how cultural practices have also been performed for ritual efficacy and for more altruistic interests of indigenous people. This thesis makes an original contribution to indigenous museology by challenging the simplistic conceptualisation of indigenous communities as harmonious and unified wholes, and opens up the complexities for adopting the ‘culture for development’ as a developmental strategy, such that the opportunities for self-representation and self-determination can become dominated by the politics of brokerage, which can in turn facilitate or compromise their intended outcomes.

Funding organisation

  • UCL Overseas Research Scholarship
  • UCL Graduate Research Scholarship

Supervisors

 Educational background

  • B.Soc.Sci (Hons), Geography (First Class), National University of Singapore, 2005
  • MA, Museum Studies (Distinction), University College London, 2010

Cai, Yunci (Forthcoming) “Between Tradition and Modernity: The Ritual Politics of Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Urbanizing Sabah, East Malaysia” in Routledge Handbook of Urbanization in Southeast Asia, Rita Padawangi (ed.). London and New York: Routledge.

Cai, Yunci (Forthcoming) “The Marginalised Orang Seletar Communities within the Changing Landscapes of Danga Bay” in Router: A Journal of Cultural Studies. 蔡韵慈 (2018) “变迁中的金海湾与被边缘化的实里达原住民”《文化研究》

Cai, Yunci (Forthcoming) “Indigenous Cultural Villages as an Inclusive Museum Model?: Issues and Challenges of Showcasing Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia” in Conference Proceedings of Sabah Museum Golden Jubilee Seminar and Workshop: The Museum and Sabah’s Heritage – Past, Present and Future.

Cai, Yunci (Forthcoming) “Indigenous Cultural Villages as an Alternative Museum Model?: A Comparative Study of Indigenous Museums and Cultural Villages in West Malaysia” in Conference Proceedings of Museum of Our Own: In Search of Local Museology for Asia.

Cai, Yunci (2017) “Performing Cultures, Negotiating Identities: The Cultural Politics of Indigenous Cultural Villages in West Malaysia” in Citizens, Civil Society and Heritage-Making in Asia, Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao, Hui Yew-Foong and Philippe Peycam (eds.). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies – Yusof Ishak Institute, pp. 114 - 136.

Cai, Yunci (2017) “Review of UNESCO in Southeast Asia: World Heritage Sites in Comparative Perspectives” in ASEASUK News, Issue 61, Spring edition, pp. 14 – 16.

Cai, Yunci and John Baptist, Judeth (2016) “Cleansing the Sacred Mountain in the Aftermath of the 2015 Mount Kinabalu Earthquake” in Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Issue 310, Volume 89, pp. 61 – 78.

Cai, Yunci (2016) “Mohlukas: A Housewarming Ceremony at the Linangkit Cultural Village” in Sabah Malaysia Borneo, March 2016, Issue 180, pp. 10 – 13. Malaysia: Sabah Tourism.

Cai, Yunci (2015) “Review of Museum of Our Own: In Search of Local Museology for Asia” in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology, Issue 25, Volume 1, pp. 1 – 6.  

Cai, Yunci (2013) “The Art of Museum Diplomacy: The Singapore-France Cultural Collaboration in Perspective” in The International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 127 - 144.

Cai, Yunci (2009) “Museums as Temples of Cultures or Palaces of Entertainment: A Study of New Museums in Singapore” in The International Journal of Inclusive Museum, Issue 1, Volume 3, pp 73 – 85.

Cai, Yunci (2009) “Law and Singapore’s Built Heritage” in Essays in Singapore’s Legal History: In Memory of Professor Geoffrey Wilson Bartholomew, Tan, Kevin Y. L and Hor, Michael (eds.). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic, pp. 87 - 125.

Cai, Yunci (2009) “Living Landscapes: Breathing New Life into Singapore’s Community Heritage Institutions”, in BeMuse, Issue 3, Volume 2, pp. 76 – 79. Singapore: National Heritage Board.

Cai, Yunci (2008) “In the Land of the Ascending Dragon”, in BeMuse, Issue 3, Volume 1, pp. 68 – 75. Singapore: National Heritage Board.

Conference Presentations

Cai, Yunci (2018) “The Cultural Politics of Indigenous Cultural Villages in Malaysia”, [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Association of Critical Heritage Studies 4th Biennial Conference 2018: Heritage Across Borders, 1 to 6 September, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.

Cai, Yunci (2017) “Performing Cultures, Negotiating Identities: The Instrumentalisation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia, [PowerPoint Presentation], Presenter, Lunchtime Heritage Seminars 2017, 19 January, UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, United Kingdom

Cai, Yunci (2016) “Performing Culture, Negotiating Identities: The Instrumentalisation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Sabah, East Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the United Kingdom (ASEASUK) Conference 2016, 16 to 18 September, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, United Kingdom

Cai, Yunci (2016) “Performing Culture, Negotiating Identities: The Instrumentalisation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Centre for Malaysian Indigenous Studies (CMIS) Seminar, 25 August, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Cai, Yunci (2016) “Performing Culture, Negotiating Identities: The Instrumentalisation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Sabah Museum Seminar, 12 August, Sabah Museum, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

Cai, Yunci (2016) “Harmonising the Natural and Human Worlds: Indigenous Cultural Heritage for Adapting to Climate Change in Sabah, East Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Royal Anthropological Institute Conference: Anthropology, Weather and Climate Change 2016, 27 to 29 May, The British Museum, London, United Kingdom

Cai, Yunci (2015) “The Sustainability of Sabah’s Indigenous Cultural Heritage: Stories from the Field” [Powerpoint Presentation], Presenter, Southeast Asian Art Festival 2015: Film Screening of Musical ‘Aki Nabalu’, with Panel Discussion on Heritage and Sustainability in Asia, 27 November 2015, UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, United Kingdom

Cai, Yunci (2015) “Indigenous Cultural Villages as an Inclusive Museum Model?: Issues and Challenges of Showcasing Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Sabah Museum Golden Jubilee Seminar and Workshop: The Museum and Sabah’s Heritage – Past, Present and Future, 28 to 30 July 2015, Sabah Museum, Sabah, Malaysia.

Cai, Yunci (2015) “Saviours or Opportunists?: Cultural Brokers and the Mediation of Indigenous Cultural Heritage in Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, 10th Singapore Graduate Forum on Southeast Asia Studies, 24 to 26 June 2015, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

Cai, Yunci (2014) “Performing Cultures, Negotiating Identities: The Cultural Politics of Indigenous Cultural Villages in Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Citizens, Civil Society and the Cultural Politics of Heritage-Making in East and Southeast Asia, Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology Conference, 11 to 13 December, Taipei, Taiwan.

Cai, Yunci (2014) “Indigenous Cultural Villages as an Alternative Museum Model?: A Comparative Study of Indigenous Museums and Cultural Villages in West Malaysia” [Paper Presentation], Presenter, Museum of Our Own: In Search of Local Museology for Asia, International Museum Conference organised by Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia) and National Museum of World Cultures (Netherlands), 18 to 20 November, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Cai, Yunci (2014) “From Museum Collections to Museum Souvenirs: Creating a Second Life for Museum Collections through ‘Souveniralisation’” [Powerpoint Presentation], Presenter, Material Properties Conference, 28 February, London, United Kingdom.

Cai, Yunci (2011) “Multicultural Museum Programming in Singapore and the Politics of Inclusion” [Powerpoint Presentation], Co-presenter, Commonwealth Association of Museums (CAM) Conference, 25 to 27 May, Singapore.

Cai, Yunci (2011) “Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Singapore” [PowerPoint Presentation], Networking on East Asia Cultural Heritage (NEACH) Seminar, 5 to 8 March, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Cai, Yunci (2010) “Protection, Preservation and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Singapore” [PowerPoint Presentation], Intangible Cultural Heritage and Museum Field School, 23 August to 5 September, Lamphun, Thailand.

Cai, Yunci (2008) “Museums as Temples of Cultures or Palaces of Entertainment: A Study of New Museums in Singapore” [Paper Presentation], International Conference on Inclusive Museum, 8 to 11 June, Leiden, Netherlands.

[Selected publications and conference presentations are available for download at http://ucl.academia.edu/YunciCai.] 


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