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Re-Membering the Khmer Rouge: Cambodian American Memory Work

Re-Membering the Khmer Rouge: Cambodian American Memory Work

A talk by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Associate Professor, English and Asian American Studies and director of Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut

Wednesday, March 06, 2013
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Between 1975 and 1979, under the rule of the Khmer Rouge, it is estimated that 1.7 million Cambodians died as a result of execution, starvation, and forced labor, constituting roughly 21% to 25% of the extant population. Now in 2012, this history of genocide – commonly referred to as the period of “The Killing Fields” for those outside Cambodia – remains contested and unresolved. Despite the formation of a U.N/War Crimes Tribunal and the indictment of five Khmer Rouge leaders, only one person has been sentenced for crimes against humanity. Hence, though more than thirty years has passed since the deposal of the Khmer Rouge from power, justice has yet to be served in an international court.

The legacy of the genocide, the absence of state-sanctioned justice, and the memory of “the Killing Fields” are primary reference points for this talk, which examines the ways in which Cambodian American cultural production is rooted in political and politicized projects of genocidal remembrance. 

Book description: War, Genocide, Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work

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. 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, 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.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Asian American Studies Center, Asian American Studies Department , Young Research Library Oral History Project, Southeast Asian Studies programs at the University of California, Riverside, and the University of Southern California.