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Interactions with a Violent Past

Reading Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam

Vatthana Pholsena and Oliver Tappe

Publication Year: 2013

The Second and Third Indochina Wars are the subject of important ongoing scholarship, but there has been little research on the lasting impact of wartime violence on local societies and populations, in Vietnam as well as in Laos and Cambodia. Today’s Lao, Vietnamese and Cambodian landscapes bear the imprint of competing violent ideologies and their perilous material manifestations. From battlefields and massively bombed terrain to reeducation camps and resettled villages, the past lingers on in the physical environment. The nine essays in this volume discuss post-conflict landscapes as contested spaces imbued with memory-work conveying differing interpretations of the recent past, expressed through material (even, monumental) objects, ritual performances, and oral narratives (or silences). While Cambodian, Lao and Vietnamese landscapes are filled with tenacious traces of a violent past, creating an unsolicited and malevolent sense of place among their inhabitants, they can in turn be transformed by actions of resilient and resourceful local communities.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Half title, full title, copyright pages

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-11

This book originated from a panel on “Haunted Landscapes and Ambiguous Memories: Interactions with the Past in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia” convened at the 6th EUROSEAS (European Association for South East Asian Studies) Conference in Gothenburg/Sweden in August 2010. The papers by Sina Emde, Susan Hammond, Vatthana ...

Map of Sites

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p. 12-12

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Introduction: The "American War," Post-Conflict Landscapes, and Violent Memories

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pp. 1-18

The history of the Second Indochina War (1961–75) — better known as the “Vietnam War” or, in Vietnam, as the “American War” — is a subject of continuous and important scholarship. The politics, diplo- macy, and military operations occupy a prominent place in these studies, covering the American and, increasingly, Vietnamese dimensions of the ...

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Chapter 1: National Memorial Sites and Personal Remembrance: Remembering the Dead of Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek at the ECCC in Cambodia

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pp. 19-45

Not far from the center of the bustling city of Phnom Penh, a place embodies dark memories of Cambodian history: memories of terror, memories of horror, memories of death, and memories of loss. During the time of the Khmer Rouge regime, from April 1975 until January 1979, this place, once built as a high school, was converted into a prison ...

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Chapter 2: National Lieu de Memoire vs. Multivocal Memories: The Case of Viengxay, Lao PDR

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pp. 46-77

“People had to hide in the forest,” said the old, half-blind farmer sitting in front of his family’s house in Ban Nakai, Viengxay town.1 He then pointed to the green hills covered with secondary forest and the occasional swidden rice field. “Many stayed in caves but others had to dig holes and covered them with leaves so that the American ...

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Chapter 3: War-Martyr Bia: Commemoration and Perdurability in Rural Vietnam

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pp. 78-95

In a recent contribution to a collection of essays on Southeast Asian ideas of power, Catherine Allerton (2012) describes Indonesian villagers’ idea of land as possessing agency (“the energy of the land”), which according to her informants had killed a visiting engineer after he had announced the opening of their native land for commercial exploitation. What her discussion gradually works out is an intertwining of spatial ...

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Chapter 4: Laos -- Living with Unexploded Ordnance: Past Memories and Present Realities

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pp. 96-134

The 1959–73 civil war in Laos, which became part of the wider Second Indochina War, killed, injured and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians.2 The US military conducted massive bombing campaigns during the last nine years of the conflict, dropping over 2.1 million tons of ordnance (US Senate Congressional Record 1975: 14,266). ...

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Chapter 5: War Debris in Postwar Society: Managing Risk and Uncertainty in the DMZ

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pp. 135-156

On 1 August 2009, the frontpage headlines of the popular Tiền Phong [Vanguard ] newspaper captured the attention of its readers with a rhetorical question and mocking observation: “Only after another three hundred years will Vietnam be clean of bombs and mines?” The accompanying color photograph showed a young Vietnamese soldier ...

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Chapter 6: A Social Reading of a Post-Conflict Landscape: Route 9 in Southern Laos

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pp. 157-185

The road that is the focus of this article — Route 91 — is one of Laos’ most important national highways, as well as being a key component of the East-West Economic Corridor, linking the city of Mawlamyine in Southeastern Burma with the port of Đà Nẵng in Central Vietnam (Quảng Trị Province) via Northeast Thailand and Southern-Central ...

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Chapter 7: Redefining Agent Orange, Mitigating Its Impacts

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pp. 186-215

In the documentary film A Story from the Corner of the Park by Vietnamese director Trần Văn Thủy, we are taken down a narrow alley in Hanoi, to the small home of a three-generational family. The film unfolds to tell the story of how this family is affected by Agent Orange from a war long over. When the film came out in 1996, there was very little ...

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Chapter 8: Aesthetic Forms of Post-Conflict Memory: Inspired Vessels of Memory in Northeast Cambodia

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pp. 216-240

In many highlander villages in northeast Cambodia, which have once been the theater of violent conflicts, villagers living in the northeast fringes of Cambodia have adjusted to the impacts of 30 years of conflicts that have destroyed their man-made and natural environment.1 Indeed older and younger generations alike continue to find new “meanings” in ...

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Chapter 9: Remembering Old Homelands: The Houay Ho Dam, the Resettlement of the Heuny (Nya Heun), Memory, and the Struggle for Places

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pp. 241-263

Memory can be linked to landscapes in various ways. People have memories of places they visited as children, and memories of places where certain significant things in their lives occurred. People also have social or group memories (Fukushima 2002; Halbwachs 1992), including those that link particular landscapes with important ...


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pp. 264-290


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pp. 291-292


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pp. 293-300

E-ISBN-13: 9789971697624
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971697013

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 2 tables, 3 maps, 37 images
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: New