“Boria Everywhere in the World”: A Penang Burlesque and the Politics of Heritage

  • Simon SoonEmail author


This chapter complicates heritage as a ready-made historical narrative by exploring the Boria, whose beginnings can be traced to Muharram celebrations introduced to the port city of Penang in the early nineteenth century. Though first viewed as disruptive of the colonial moral order, Boria then gained credibility as a theatre form connected to the Malay nationalist movement. Today, it is recognised as one of Penang’s unique heritage theatres. Attending to textual, archival, photographic and urban spatial analysis, this chapter questions heritage discourse and practice by examining the Boria as a burlesque of the colonial state and its epistemic ordering of social relations along the faultlines of race and religion. It ends by calling for a new terminology for heritage that can critically account for the cosmopolitics of past cultural practices.


Boria Penang British colonialism Heritage theatre 


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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universiti MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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