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Visual & Media Cultures Colloquium—Boreth Ly

From the Jungle Cruise to the Chaffee Zoo: Prevailing Colonial Fantasies of ‘Jungle Asians'
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
online event
Presented by: 
Film and Digital Media
History of Art and Visual Culture

Boreth Ly, associate professor of Southeast Asian art history and visual culture at UC Santa Cruz, presents a talk as part of the Visual and Media Cultures Colloquia (VMCC).

About the Talk
This talk considers a $38 million construction project funded by Measure Z to transform the Chaffee Zoo in Fresno, California, into a fantasy leisure park called “Kingdoms of Asia.” The transfigured zoo will include a simulation of a jungle-consumed ancient Angkorian temple around which captive animals roam and a restaurant with a multicultural Asian food buffet will serve visitors.

Professor Ly traces the origins of Chaffee Zoo’s colonial racist fantasy to French colonial ordering and classification of nature and natives of Indochina (1887-1954), especially in the French invention of Angkor as an abandoned ancient ruin in the jungle of Cambodia. White Americans later borrowed this model of European colonial fantasy and racial othering. Last, Professor Ly addresses the complicity of the Cambodian-American community in Fresno with the construction of this colonial fantasy; this inadvertent collusion is tied to their desire for cultural and ethnic visibility. She argues that prevailing colonial and imperial racial stereotyping has once again reinscribed Cambodian-Americans as the primitive and non-human other.

About the Speaker
Boreth Ly is an associate professor of Southeast Asian art history and visual culture at UC Santa Cruz. She coedited, with Nora A. Taylor, Modern and Contemporary Art of Southeast Asia (2012). In addition, she has written numerous articles and essays on the arts and films of Southeast Asia and its diaspora. She is the author of Traces of Trauma: Cambodian Visual Culture and National Identity in the Aftermath of Genocide (University of Hawai’i Press, 2020). Academically trained as an art historian, Ly employs multidisciplinary methods and theories in her writings and analysis, depending on the subject matter. 

About the Series
The annual Visual and Media Cultures Colloquia (VMCC) at UC Santa Cruz are a collaboration between the graduate programs in Film and Digital Media Department and Visual Studies in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department. The series brings an array of cutting-edge scholars to speak on a broad spectrum of subjects. 

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FREE and open to the public
Registration link TBA

image credit: Map of the Kingdoms of Asia, Fresno