Chetana Nagavajara

Chetana Nagavajara
Chetana Nagavajara

Professor emeritus of German at Silpakorn University, Thailand. A scholar of Comparative Literature, trained in Cambridge and Tübingen, he has had extensive experience in teaching, research, and university administration. His scholarly works address such areas as Western, Thai, and Comparative Literature and Interart Studies. With a grant from the Humboldt Foundation, he has been studying the rebirth of the discipline of Comparative Literature in Germany after WWII. He is a frequent visitor to Berlin, having been associated with the Institute for Comparative Literature of the Freie Universität Berlin and the Centre for Cultural and Literary Research.

Research Project

Staging Prehistory: A Thai Case Study

The project is a case study from Thailand, a critical appraisal of a collaboration between archaeologists, creative artists, art historians, and multiracial/multicultural local inhabitants. Two prehistoric sites in the uppermost Northern Province of Mae Hongson gave inspiration to (mostly) Thai and foreign visual artists, composers, and musicians to create original works, which can be considered part of a process of a ‘staging’ (the German term ‘Inszenierung’ being more appropriate) of prehistory that culminated in an Art Festival on site and a subsequent exhibition in Bangkok that sparked off a lively debate. The efforts by certain archaeological schools to turn their discipline into a value-free science might have to face a counterargument inherent in the very archaeological finds themselves, one being described as a “Valhalla in Virgin Forest”—a majestic group of log coffins standing upright under a rock shelter. A new, aesthetically sensitive archaeology has therefore been supportive of creative art. A four-fold dialogue has emerged, one between Thai and Western artistic modes of expression, one between the various arts, one between scholarly disciplines and one between (a very distant) past and present. The project should serve to substantiate the notion of theatricality in its broadest sense and the possibility of interweaving various artistic traditions and cultures.