Accepted paper:

The Temporal and Spatial Frictions of Cosmopolitan Genocide Memory: an Ethnographic Reading of Communal Genocide Monuments in Cambodia


Carol Ann Kidron (University of Haifa)

Paper short abstract:

Cambodian communal sites of genocide are analyzed as culturally incompetent products of travelling cosmopolitan memory. Buddhist traditional temporal and spatial perspectives and practices are presented as incongruent with Euro-Western forms of public collective commemoration.

Paper long abstract:

As part of the contemporary conceptualization of memorialization of difficult pasts as a human right and global imperative, recent decades have witnessed the circulation of Euro-western commemorative forms in non-Western post-genocide societies. Be it genocide museum exhibits or commemorative monuments, architects and museologists have attempted to weave local culturally particular symbolic motifs with Euro-Western aesthetic commemorative forms. In accordance with precepts of travelling cosmopolitan memory, the outcome often appears to represent a hybrid product of glocalization in the global commemorative landscape, effectively translating particular local conceptions of loss, mourning and collective memory into a universally shared semiotics and mnemonic aesthetics. However, echoing the challenge of other forms of cultural translation, Euro-Western commemorative forms of representation may be incongruent with culturally particular worldviews and the way in which local ethos objectify (or resist objectifying) the past in the present and future. This lecture will suggest that anthropological perspectives may isolate the limits of translation pointing to local ethos that may have been lost in translation. Ethnographic data on communal sites of genocide in Cambodia will be presented. Moving off the beaten track, commemorative 'stupas' located in village Wats (Buddhist compounds) will be discussed as potentially incongruent hybrid cultural products of glocal memorialization. Cambodian Buddhist present and future focused perspectives and familial domestic and/or Buddhist wat-based commemoration point to temporal and spatial frictions between culturally particular private, 'religious', valorized forgetting and cosmopolitan memory's collective, civil-secular and public form of remembrance. Implications are raised regarding the universalization/localization of cosmopolitan genocide memory.

panel P162
Materializing the past and imagining the future