War, Genocide, and Justice
Cambodian American Memory Work
Publication Year: 2012
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 Justice investigates 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.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Introduction: Battling the “Cambodian Syndrome”
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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, ...
Chapter 1: Atrocity Tourism: Politicized Remembrance and Reparative Memorialization
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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,” ...
Chapter 2: Screening Apology: Cinematic Culpability in The Killing Fields and New Year Baby
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On January 20, 1980, the New York Times Magazine published “The Death and Life of Dith Pran: A Story of Cambodia” by Times editor, columnist, and correspondent Sydney Schanberg. A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Schanberg received earlier acclaim for his Vietnam War–era reportage. ...
Chapter 3: Growing Up under the Khmer Rouge: Cambodian American Life Writing
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In June 2000, a quarter century after the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh, the New York Times published a review of two Cambodian American memoirs: Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers and Chanrithy Him’s When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up under the Khmer Rouge. ...
Chapter 4: Lost Chapters and Invisible Wars: Hip-Hop and Cambodian American Critique
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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 ...
Epilogue: Remembering the Forgetting
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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 ...
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Undeniably, War, Genocide, and Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work owes an enormous debt to the Cambodian American artists, writers, and activists whose commitment to human rights, genocide remembrance, and social justice—notwithstanding the passage of more than three decades after the 1979 dissolution of the Khmer Rouge regime— ...
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About the Author
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Cathy J. Schlund-Vials is associate professor of English and Asian American studies and director of the Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. She is author of Modeling Citizenship: Jewish and Asian American Writing.
Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2012