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The Center for Southeast Asian Studies organizes and sponsors a number of events such as lectures, film screening, workshops, symposia, conferences, exhibits, and performances throughout the year.  Several of these events are in collaboration with other U-M units, and are often free and open to the public. To see what we have planned for this semester, please visit our 2020 Lecture Series page.

CSEAS Friday Lecture Series | Aesthetic Nationalism: Dancing the Tai Nation in the Thai-Myanmar Borderlands

Tani H. Sebro, Assistant Professor of Global Politics, Cal Poly Humboldt
Friday, February 16, 2024
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
Attend in person or via Zoom. Zoom registration at

Dance, song and the performing arts are often overlooked in studies of war and diaspora. Yet synchronized rhythmic movement promotes group coherence within all cultures, religions and nations, and holds potential for expressing both political resistance and national coherence. Drawing from long-term ethnographic fieldwork and dance training in Northern Thailand amongst forcibly displaced Tai (Shan) migrants from Myanmar, this talk attends to how dance, song and theatre practice reinvigorate stateless people’s desire for self-determination in ways that challenge the current nation-state paradigm. For Tai exiles, ethnic nationalism is produced through the work of dance and through shared rhythmic and aesthetic structures of sentiment towards the Tai nation – which produce powerful political affects and effects. Aesthetic Nationalism argues that displaced peoples do not maintain their sense of nation primarily through capital and reading publics, but rather through the complex transmission of what may be called “aesthetic nationalisms,” which involve performances and cultural practices that produce enduring bonds to an imagined homeland.

The in-progress book project, Aesthetic Nationalism argues that the nation, for countless peoples in exile, is often carried through the body and continuously forged via the rhythmic work of performance and theater, in addition to discourse, language and signification. This is a story of how fractured nations seek to maintain themselves by enmeshing acts of defiance and persistence in art and in performance.

Tani Sebro is a political and dance ethnographer who has conducted over two years field research along the Thai-Myanmar border. Currently an Associate Professor of Global Politics at Cal Poly Humboldt, she is the recipient of a Fulbright-ASEAN Fellowship and is a UC Berkeley SEALIVES grantee.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, myanmar, Southeast Asia, thailand
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Southeast Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures