1994 Working Papers #8: “‘He Says You’re Going To Play the Giant’: Ethnographic Perspectives on a Cambodian Arts Class in Philadelphia”

This project began when the Philadelphia Folklore Project (PFP) initiated a residency partnership with the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial in traditional Cambodian arts. The PFP anticipated raising issues that might help in the understanding of the cultural dynamics and elements that were likely to shape and effect the residency. The PFP imagined that such work might involve an exploration of the meanings and processes of traditional Khmer arts, and an attempt was made to understand what went on in a classroom devoted to Khmer youth making Khmer art under the guidance of Khmer teachers. This document is intended as a contribution to a more public discussion of some of the educational issues related to the residency. This paper addresses questions of multiculturalism and folk arts in education, outlines some of the educational issues raised by the residency, and details some of the successes and failures of the project. The paper’s appendices include background on the participating artists, questions for educators, and a resource list.

William Westerman