Accepted Paper:

Transmitted moralities, responsible self: changing ideas of individual and community in modern Cambodia.  


Kenneth Finis (Macquarie University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the impact of disrupted history upon traditional understandings of the relationship between the individual and the community, and how changed moral ideas of responsibility and self are passed on, appropriated and re-interpreted between generations in urban Phnom Penh.

Paper long abstract:

Intergenerational anxieties about changing morals of the young and the death of community seem common in many places worldwide. Yet in Cambodia, increasing individualism may not solely result from urban consumerism but rather lie in an intentional transmission of these changed values following periods of mass violence. For many of these young people, a commonly stated expectation is that one must look after the interests of self and family before those of others. The link to parental experiences of insecurity and scarcity in the past is explicit, as what developed as a necessary survival tactic was instilled in following generations to equip them for the realities of a harsh world. However the implication of this change in values is interpreted variously, some speaking of 'self first' as a positive necessity if they are to position themselves to help others in the future. Here the interests of the individual and those of the community are seen sometimes as hostile, and at other times as one in the same.

Drawing on initial fieldwork in Phnom Penh, this paper presents perspectives from young Cambodians on individual responsibility and the relationship between self and community. Exploring how moralities are transmitted and appropriated, intentional utility in these transformations is suggested as well as the importance of narrative in how young people interpret and take on their own understanding of what has been taught. An aspirational aspect to chosen moralities is suggested, and the role of future agency in community and national healing is discussed

Panel Imm01
Individuality, incivility, immorality