The Spiritual Foundations of Southeast Asian Arts (2/2)

Miss Chloe Ho4, Miss Katherine Bruhn1, Mr. Laurence Marvin S. Castillo4, Miss Anissa Rahadiningtyas2, Mr.  Syed Muhammad Hafiz3

1University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, United States of America, 2Cornell University, Ithaca, USA, 3National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, 4University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia


Spirituality and religious practice permeate everyday Southeast Asian life. With a long history of indigenous beliefs, exposure to world religions through processes like maritime trade and the rapid movement of peoples in the contemporary era, religion is everywhere. Yet, at the same time, religion is seemingly nowhere in contemporary discourse concerning Southeast Asian creative practices.

Organized around an interest in the role that the spiritual may play in creative practices including contemporary art, film, music and architecture, this double panel moves beyond a defensive argument for the presence of religion and spirituality in art from Southeast Asia. Instead, it asks what we may gain or lose by engaging spirituality as an alternative frame for the examination of creative practices across Southeast Asia. Through an investigation of how we might begin to define an “aesthetics of the spiritual” as both unique to and defined by the diversity that characterizes Southeast Asia, we will be raising theoretical and methodological questions that will, in turn, advance further inquiries concerning the role that spirituality, understood as associated with but potentially separate from more formal adherence to world religions, has on the work of creative practitioners in varied fields across the region.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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