“Pieces that Form a More Complete Whole”: Potencies of Meaning in Lao Contemporary Dance


  • Roy Huijsmans International Institute of Social Studies | Erasmus University


This article explores the issue of meaning in the form of social commentary in the emerging Lao contemporary arts scene. I do so by focusing on the case of contemporary dance, looking at the performance kip by Noutnapha Soydala. In the context of late socialist Southeast Asia, social commentary remains a delicate matter. Yet, Lao contemporary dancers insist on the importance of imbuing their work with meaning while also stressing meaning as multiple and perpetually becoming. Dialoguing between some of the references in kip and research on Laos I suggest that meaning is best described in terms of potencies: the references trigger recognition and engagement as much as they unsettle any pre-given meaning these may carry. This approach to meaning, I argue, is important for the further development of contemporary arts in Laos whilst occasionally it can also give rise to more closed readings of meaning.

Author Biography

Roy Huijsmans, International Institute of Social Studies | Erasmus University

Roy Huijsmans is an associate professor at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. His research focuses on young people and social change based on field research in mainland Southeast Asia and the Netherlands. Recent publications include work on young people in migration, the platform economy, mobile technologies, and aspirations.



2022-11-07 — Updated on 2022-11-08