Ward Keeler

Associate ProfessorPh.D., University of Chicago

Ward Keeler



Anthropology and expressive culture, including music, theatre, and literature; language and culture; postcoloniality; Java and Bali (Indonesia), and Burma.


Additional affiliations: Editor, Bulletin of the Burma Studies Group; Trustee, Burma Studies Foundation; Member of the Editorial Board, Moussons: Social Science Research on Southeast Asia

Research interests:

I am interested in the ways that people in the societies of Southeast Asia where I have worked (Java and Bali, and lowland Burma) take hierarchy as the grounds upon which all social relations are based, whereas in the U.S. people are endlessly troubled by contradictions among equality, autonomy, and hierarchy. The contrast helps to make sense of what people in these societies do and say in their performing arts— which are the main focus of my research—as well as in religious, domestic, and other matters.

Recent Publications:

Compact Disks

In production. Classical Burmese Theatre Music. Produced by Ward Keeler. Liner notes by Ward Keeler. Geneva: Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire.

2003. Mahagita: harp and vocal music from Burma. Music recording coproduced with Rick Heizman. Liner notes by Ward Keeler. Smithsonian Folkways 40491.


2004. Durga Umayi, by Y. B. Mangunwijaya. Translated and annotated, with an Introduction and Afterword, by Ward Keeler. Seattle: University of Washington Press, Singapore: Singapore University Press.


2009. What’s Burmese about Burmese rap? : Why some expressive forms go global. American Ethnologist 36(1):2-19.

2008. Teaching Southeast Asia Through Fiction and Memoirs. Anthropology Today 24 (6): 16-19 (December, 2008).

2006. The Pleasures of Polyglossia. In ed. J. Lindsay, Between Tongues: Translation and/of/in Performance in Asia. Singapore: Singapore University Press. Pp. 204- 23.

2005. “But Princes Jump:” performing masculinity in Mandalay. In, ed. Monique Skidmore, Burma at the Turn of the 21st Century. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Pp. 206-228.

2003. Wayang Kulit in the Political Margin. In, ed. Jan Mrazek, Puppet Theater in Contemporary Indonesia: New Approaches to Performance-Events. Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan Press. pp. 92-108.

2002. Durga Umayi and the Postcolonialist Dilemma. In, eds. Keith Foulcher and Tony Day, Clearing a Space: postcolonial readings of modern Indonesian literature. Leiden: KITLV Press. pp. 349-69.

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