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SACS Seminar: “Dominion in Disguise: The Penumbra of Colonialism and the Ambiguities of ‘National Culture’ in Greece, Thailand, and Elsewhere,” Professor Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University

“Dominion in Disguise: The Penumbra of Colonialism and the Ambiguities of ‘National Culture’ in Greece, Thailand, and Elsewhere”

Michael Herzfeld - Harvard University

Thursday, 26 July, 3:10 — 5:00 PM, Murphy Lecture Theater (MYLT) 101.

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The extent of Western colonialism is not confined to certain patches marked on the globe. There are many countries – Thailand, Greece, Iran, Nepal, Afghanistan, China, and even Iceland among them – that were “granted” independence (or “allowed” to keep it) on condition that they followed the dictates of the Western colonial powers with regard to the establishment of secure borders containing a clearly defined national culture and society.

The consequences of this process have been painful, in varying degrees, for the countries concerned, since they have been generally unable to garner much sympathy from the post-colonies as a result of their insistence that they were “never colonized,” yet they still, in some respects, continue to look to Western sources of power and authority for approval. The speaker will describe some of the local consequences of this global phenomenon and will suggest that it illustrates the coercive power of cultural management and its role in the perpetuation of Western domination.

Michael Herzfeld is the Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where he also served as the first Director of the Asia Center’s Thai Studies Program (2014-18). He is also the International Institute for Asian Studies Extraordinary Professor of Critical Heritage Studies at Leiden University. Author of eleven books (most recently Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome, 2009, and Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, 2016) and producer of two ethnographic films, he has served as editor of American Ethnologist (1995-98). He has conducted field research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand. His current research interests include artisanal knowledge and its transmission; gentrification, heritage politics, and the disruption of social life; the local and global effects of nationalism; and theoretical and comparative approaches to cultural intimacy, crypto-colonialism, and the concept of polity.

For more information contact: Gill Blomgren (, 04 463 5677)