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The “old” and the “new”: events and placemaking in Luang Prabang, Laos

Russell Staiff (Department of Social Science and Psychology, Western Sydney University, Parramatta, Australia)
Robyn Bushell (Department of Social Science and Psychology, Western Sydney University, Parramatta, Australia)

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 6 March 2017

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore Lai Heua Fai, Festival of Light, as a place making ritual in the world heritage town of Luang Prabang, a former royal capital of the Lao-speaking kingdom. It compares this centuries-old traditional festival with a very new place making festival, the Luang Prabang Film Festival which began only six years ago.

Design/methodology/approach

Sense of place theorization has developed considerably in recent decades as a number of discourses have co-mingled and as social and cultural research has embraced space/place as a crucial component of knowledge production. The study explores place making in a globalized, post-modern and post-colonial world. Fieldwork was undertaken in Luang Prabang between 2008 and 2016 including interviews, observations, photographic recording and participation, leading up to the 2013 celebration of Lai Heua Fai and the 2015 film festival.

Findings

Lai Heua Fai and the Luang Prabang Film Festival are spatial practices that represent the places they evoke. Both these events connect the past, the present and the future in place. The authors argue that separating “events” from “place” sets up a dichotomy that is problematic and unsustainable on many levels: perceptually, as a lived experience, epistemologically and analytically.

Originality/value

The authors suggest that these two identity forming events, in the life of Luang Prabang, herald “place” and “place making” as ongoing dynamic processes of construction and re-construction where the “traditional” and the “contemporary” are constantly re-constituted as markers, in the case of this research, of Luang Prabangan identity and place attachment.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the work of the authors’ Lao research Assistant and Translator, Siphai Thammavong, and sincerely thank him for his contribution to fieldwork and interviews.

Citation

Staiff, R. and Bushell, R. (2017), "The “old” and the “new”: events and placemaking in Luang Prabang, Laos", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 55-65. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEFM-05-2016-0036

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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