A new book that is of special interest to curators, archivists and researchers working with Southeast Asian collections has just been published by National University of Singapore Press, in collaboration with the SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (University of London), with the title “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution” (ISBN 978-981-325-124-3). Edited by Louise Tythacott (Woon Tai Jee Professor of Asian Art, Northumbria University) and Panggah Ardiyansyah (SOAS, University of London), the book contains contributions from Gabrielle Abbe, Jos van Beurden, Socheat Chea, John Clarke, Charlotte Galloway, Chanraksmey Muong, Duyen Nguyen, Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, Melody Rod-ari, Wieske Octaviani Sapardan.

The publisher’s announcement of the new book highlights that “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.” (Source: NUS Press)

The book contains eleven chapters on the following topics:

1. Introduction: Collecting and Returning Southeast Asia’s Past
Part I: Artefact Ownership
2. The Selling of Khmer Artefacts during the Colonial Era: Questioning the Perception of Khmer Heritage through a Study of Traded Khmer Art Pieces (1920s–1940s)
3. The Looting of Koh Ker and the Return of the Prasat Chen Statues
4. Who Owns Ban Chiang? The Discovery, Collection and Repatriation of Ban Chiang Artefacts
Part II: Object Biographies and Colonial Legacies
5. On the Road Back to Mandalay: The Burmese Regalia – Seizure, Display and Return to Myanmar in 1964
6. Bridging the Missing Gaps: The Politics of Display at the Dong Duong Buddhist Art Gallery
7. Restitution and National Heritage: (Art) Historical Trajectories of Raden Saleh’s Paintings
8. Returns by the Netherlands to Indonesia in the 2010s and the 1970s
Part III: Museums, Restitution, and Cultural Identities
9. The Return of Cultural Property and National Identity in Postcolonial Indonesia
10. Plaibat: Reclaiming Heritage, Social Media, and Modern Nationalism
11. Myanmar, Museums, and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage

The publication is available directly from NUS Press or can be pre-ordered from major book-sellers.