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Love and Dread in Cambodia

Weddings, Births and Ritual Harm under the Khmer Rouge

Peg LeVine

Publication Year: 2010

For a decade, the author followed Cambodian men and women to former wedding and birth sites from the Khmer Rouge period (1975-79), filming their return to these locations. In the process she uncovered evidence of the way severe dislocation, induced starvation and other murderous activities paved the way for reconstructed communes. Group marriages, along with prescriptions for sex, pregnancies and births, were a central feature of the remaking of Cambodian society and contributed to the dissolution of the country's ritual practices. This "ritualcide" caused a massive loss of spirit-protective places, objects,and arbitrators, and had a traumatic impact on Khmer socity. Group marriages did, however, give spouses a reprieve from further dislocation. Approaching the phenomenon as an ethno-psychologist, LeVine argues that suffering was intensified by ritual tampering on the part of the Khmer Rouge. Such disruptions did not end in 1979, however, since Euro-American perspectives on trauma and reconcilation have also failed to accept spirit respect as a normative feature of Cambodian life.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page

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pp. i-iii

Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. x-x

Terms of References

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xv

Cambodian women and men told me about their lives, not as testimony, but as dimensional history. Many invited me into their homes...

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pp. xvi-xx

There is nothing certain about sources of harm and protection in Cambodia - a landscape with Flying Apsaras, ...

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Introduction: “Under the Lie” in Incomparable Times

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pp. 1-15

Cambodian women and men spoke to me of their group weddings, pregnancies, births, ...

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Chapter 1 The Khmer Rouge Weddings: Forced or Not?

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pp. 16-35

Khmer Rouge leaders assigned some to marriage, while others asked permission to marry someone of their own or a ...

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Chapter 2 Vulnerability Under the Khmer Rouge

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pp. 36-57

Mrs Om was 23-years-old on the day of her wedding in 1977. At the age of 16 during the Lon Nol regime in 1971, she left her village and her parents...

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Chapter 3 Core Rituals for Marriage, Pregnancy, and Birth in Cambodia

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pp. 58-76

Classically, ritual refers to an explicit cultural activity that is transmitted over time and entails daily and/or seasonal activities, with modes of expression connected ...

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Chapter 4 Beyond Testimony: Weddings and Births Unraveled

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pp. 77-111

During my third interview with the Oms, Mr Om asked if I might want to go to the place where he and his wife married...

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Chapter 5 Displaced without Imagination

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pp. 112-128

Imagination can be damaged. For instance, when a child feels afraid, confused or lost, she or he may...

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Chapter 6 Field Diaries: Expose on Cruelty

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pp. 129-137

My field diaries are filled up with pencil sketches, haiku, one-word embossments, photos of my ...

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Chapter 7 Anghar's Potency

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pp. 138-162

The significance of spirit in relation to place and time kept surfacing during my meetings with Cambodians, ...

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Chapter 8 Agentless Victimiser

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pp. 163-172

After my analysis was complete, I searched for scholars who were not socialised into the language and concepts from Trauma, Genocide, or ...

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Chapter 9 Not So Simple: Neither Benign nor Hideous

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pp. 173-184

Throughout the course of my fieldwork, a sense of dread sat underneath Cambodians' portrayal of love and ...


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pp. 185-204


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pp. 205-216


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pp. 217-219

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695781
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971694722

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 21 images
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: New

OCLC Number: 794698888
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Love and Dread in Cambodia

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Marriage customs and rites -- Cambodia -- Psychological aspects.
  • Rites and ceremonies -- Cambodia -- Psychological aspects.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder -- Cambodia.
  • Victims of state-sponsored terrorism -- Mental health -- Cambodia.
  • Birth customs -- Cambodia -- Psychological aspects.
  • Cambodia -- History -- 1975-1979.
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