Sharaad Kuttan: Art, protest and public sphere

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University of Nottingham Malaysia campus is hosting another talk in its series of public lectures, this time featuring Sharaad Kuttan.

Sharaad Kuttan is presently Senior Lecturer at IACT College in Petaling Jaya where he teaches journalism. He is a columnist with the political news portal, The Malaysian Insider, and is a regular guest on a cultural radio talk show, A Bit of Culture, on Bfm. A graduate of the National University of Singapore, he obtained a masters degree from its Department of Sociology and Anthropology. He is co-editor of “Looking at Culture”, a collection of essays on cultural politics in Singapore. While involved in human rights activism including election monitoring in countries as diverse as Indonesia and Sri Lanka, he has also participated in academic research in the same field. He contributed a chapter on the links between civil society and political ferment, to “Elections and Democracy in Malaysia” (2005), a volume published by the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In 2006 he was awarded the Nippon Foundation’s Asian Public Intellectual fellowship and spent a year in The Philippines and Thailand exploring the relationship between universities and larger society.

The following is an abstract of his talk:

Over the last decade, amidst political turmoil and an interminably long process of transition from authoritarian to democratic governance, the nation has had to debate, on a few occasions, issues of artistic or cultural value. Namewee’s controversial “Negarakuku” video and the banning of Amir Mohammad’s “The Last Communist” stand out as moments in which these issues entered the national consciousness and were subject to public scrutiny. Artistic license, cultural freedom, censorship and a host of related issues emerged. But beyond these instances are many ‘lesser’ occasions – that is ‘marginal’ to the national consciousness – in which artists and cultural practitioners have had to confront censorious detractors in the form of state institutions, social groups as well as their own fears. Are these struggles in the margins of the nation of any relevance to the larger public sphere? Can the struggles of marginal artistic forms in fact illuminate the frameworks in which we all operate? Does the character of our democratic desires hinge on how these struggles are played out? By comparing two Performance Art festivals held in Kuala Lumpur, this paper argues that the struggles of artists in the margins should in fact be of interests to the larger public.

For further enquiries, please feel free to get in touch with me or Agnes Selvaragi ([email protected]).

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