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War, Genocide, and Justice

War, Genocide, and Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    War, Genocide, and Justice
    Book Description:

    In the three years, eight months, and twenty days of the Khmer Rouge's deadly reign over Cambodia, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished as a result of forced labor, execution, starvation, and disease. Despite the passage of more than thirty years, two regime shifts, and a contested U.N. intervention, only one former Khmer Rouge official has been successfully tried and sentenced for crimes against humanity in an international court of law to date. It is against this background of war, genocide, and denied justice that Cathy J. Schlund-Vials explores the work of 1.5-generation Cambodian American artists and writers.

    Drawing on what James Young labels "memory work"-the collected articulation of large-scale human loss-War, Genocide, and Justiceinvestigates the remembrance work of Cambodian American cultural producers through film, memoir, and music. Schlund-Vials includes interviews with artists such as Anida Yoeu Ali, praCh Ly, Sambath Hy, and Socheata Poeuv. Alongside the enduring legacy of the Killing Fields and post-9/11 deportations of Cambodian American youth, artists potently reimagine alternative sites for memorialization, reclamation, and justice. Traversing borders, these artists generate forms of genocidal remembrance that combat amnesic politics and revise citizenship practices in the United States and Cambodia.

    Engaged in politicized acts of resistance, individually produced and communally consumed, Cambodian American memory work represents a significant and previously unexamined site of Asian American critique.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8293-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Battling the “Cambodian Syndrome”
    (pp. 1-26)

    The khmer rouge reign of terror began at approximately 7:30 a.m. on April 17, 1975, when black-uniformed soldiers marched into the nation’s capital (Phnom Penh) during the Cambodian New Year.¹ Emboldened by American foreign-policy disasters and an unpopular Lon Nol dictatorship, the Khmer Rouge found little resistance from Cambodians wary of illegal bombings, chaotic civil war, and ceaseless military violence.² Grounded in untenable agricultural revolution and determined to eradicate Western influence by any means necessary, the Khmer Rouge regime systematically evacuated Cambodia’s cities and forcibly relocated residents to countryside labor camps. Single-minded in this so-called “year zero” focus—which, given...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Atrocity Tourism: Politicized Remembrance and Reparative Memorialization
    (pp. 27-70)

    Located at 113 Boeng Keng Kang 3 in the Tuol Svay Prey subdistrict of southern Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is strikingly nondescript, despite its present-day international reputation as a former epicenter of Khmer Rouge atrocities. Contrary to travel writer Stuart Emmrich’s characterization of a “lovely residential neighborhood,” very few Cambodians actually live in the area, which is currently home to international nongovernmental organizations, a small number of local businesses, and a few restaurants.¹ All the same, the incongruous location of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is reinforced by way of a plain corrugated metal fence, which initially obscures the...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Screening Apology: Cinematic Culpability in The Killing Fields and New Year Baby
    (pp. 71-114)

    On january 20, 1980, theNew York Times Magazinepublished “The Death and Life of Dith Pran: A Story of Cambodia” byTimeseditor, columnist, and correspondent Sydney Schanberg. A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Schanberg received earlier acclaim for his Vietnam War–era reportage. Expressly, the Singapore-based reporter chronicled the collateral damage of U.S. policy in Cambodia by critically detailing in-country volatility under the U.S.-installed Lon Nol regime (1970–75).¹ Notwithstanding Schanberg’s previous Cambodian work, theNew York Times Magazinepiece signaled—by way of perspective and tone—a profound departure for the seasoned war reporter. As theTimescorrespondent...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Growing Up under the Khmer Rouge: Cambodian American Life Writing
    (pp. 115-148)

    In june 2000, a quarter century after the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh, theNew York Timespublished a review of two Cambodian American memoirs: Loung Ung’sFirst They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembersand Chanrithy Him’sWhen Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up under the Khmer Rouge. Titled “Memories of Genocide,” Joshua Wolf Shenk’s literary appraisal opens with an allusion to the Khmer Rouge–driven forced evacuation of Cambodia’s cities. As the writer turned critic surmises,

    Most left on foot and, after walking for days in the scorching heat, received another order from soldiers: to write...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Lost Chapters and Invisible Wars: Hip-Hop and Cambodian American Critique
    (pp. 149-180)

    Approximately twenty miles from downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach‘s business district is a veritable “Little Phnom Penh.” Located on Anaheim Street between Atlantic and Junipero Avenues, “Cambodia Town,” as it is officially known by city planners, visitors, and residents, boasts numerous Khmer-owned jewelry stores, clothing outlets, donut shops, and restaurants.¹ Civically, culturally, and demographically, Long Beach contains a Cambodian consulate (one of only three in the United States), Theravada Buddhist temples, and the largest Cambodian American population in the United States.² Approximately fifty thousand Cambodians and Cambodian Americans live in Long Beach, making the SoCal port city a certifiable Cambodian...

  8. EPILOGUE: Remembering the Forgetting
    (pp. 181-194)

    If, as lisa yoneyama maintains, the “process of remembering . . . necessarily entails the forgetting of the forgetfulness,” then Anida Yoeu Ali’s “Visiting Loss” (2005) poetically encompasses a contested matrix of disremembered histories, Khmer Rouge politics, refugee memory, and unstable citizenships.¹ A “Cambodian American Muslim transnational,” Ali is a Chicago-based 1.5-generation poet/performer/visual artist who left Cambodia soon after the 1979 dissolution of Democratic Kampuchea.² An eleven-stanza composition, Ali’s “Visiting Loss” details the refugee artist’s first return to her country of origin after a twenty-five-year absence.³ Lyrical and autobiographical, epic and elegiac, “Visiting Loss” employs a stream-of-consciousness narration evident in...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 195-198)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 199-226)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-236)
  12. Index
    (pp. 237-244)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-245)