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War, Genocide, and Justice

Cambodian American Memory Work

2012
Author:

Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

War, Genocide, and Justice

Examining Cambodian American cultural production as memory work

Against the background of war, genocide, and denied justice in Cambodia more than thirty years ago, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials explores the remembrance work of 1.5-generation Cambodian American cultural producers through film, memoir, and music. 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.

War, Genocide, and Justice is exceedingly insightful. It illuminates the significance of the Cambodian American memory politics specifically in relationship to the U.S. exceptionalism and the amnesia over its militarized imperialist past it has sustained even in the form of remembering, justice, and reconciliation.

Lisa Yoneyama, University of Toronto

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.

War, Genocide, and Justice

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.

War, Genocide, and Justice

War, Genocide, and Justice is exceedingly insightful. It illuminates the significance of the Cambodian American memory politics specifically in relationship to the U.S. exceptionalism and the amnesia over its militarized imperialist past it has sustained even in the form of remembering, justice, and reconciliation.

Lisa Yoneyama, University of Toronto

In shedding light on the significance of Cambodian American memory work, Schlund-Vials affirms Cambodian American literature, film, and cultural criticism as a crucial area of Asian American Studies.

Asian American Literature: Discourses and Pedagogies (AALDP)

The urgency by which [Schlund-Vials] confronts historical amnesia and omission and the dire need for verbal and legal justice makes this work unique, crucial, and timely.

Journal of Asian American Studies

This is a valuable contribution to Asian American Studies and American Studies more broadly. Schlund-Vials interrupts facile, exceptionalist understandings of US foreign policy with Southeast Asia and the concomitant “boat people” it produced.

Journal of American Culture

The urgency by which [Schlund-Vials] confronts historical amnesia and omission and the dire need for verbal and legal justice makes this work unique.

Journal of Asian-American Studies

Cathy Schlund-Vial’s War, Genocide, and Justice is a significant contribution not only to memory studies or transnational cultural studies, but also to a new wave in Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian American studies. ... Schlund-Vials indeed break new ground, drawing together traumatic remembrance and transition state, cultural labor and survivor subjecthood, in a dazzling display.
... Dense with evidence and concise in rigor, Cathy Schlund-Vial’s War, Genocide, and Justice is an important historical and theoretical study of memory work as public policy and political resistance, forging new paths for the (still largely Eurocentric) field of trauma and transition studies as well as Asian Americanist critique.

Mimi Thi Nguyen, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Journal of American Studies

The impactful narrative of this revelatory volume has undoubtedly added vital contributions to the color, texture and weave of the fabric of remembrance in the face of annihilation.

Genocide Studies and Prevention

As a study that intervenes in the production of knowledge on Cold War U.S. interventions in Southeast Asia, War, Genocide, and Justice exemplifies the potential of the transnational turn in American Studies and the cultural turn in Cold War Studies.

American Studies

War, Genocide, and Justice

Contents


Introduction: Battling the “Cambodian Syndrome”

1. Atrocity Tourism: Politicized Remembrance and Reparative Memorialization

2. Screening Apology: Cinematic Culpability in The Killing Fields and New Year Baby

3. Growing Up under the Khmer Rouge: Cambodian American Life Writing

4. Lost Chapters and Invisible Wars: Hip Hop and Cambodian American Critique

Epilogue: Remembering the Forgetting


Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index