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Archive for the ‘sounding’ Category

2013 Elections and Social Change

In cambodia, sounding on July 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm

So the elections are finally over. The CPP retained enough seats to form a majority government on its own, though it lost so much ground to the CNRP that some are calling the results a “wake up call” for the CPP [Phnom Penh Post, 2].

All in all, given the (different types of) threats of violence, this may be the best possible outcome. The next 5 years will provide evidence one way or the other. Meanwhile, I expect the nastiness from folks who do literally nothing but complain in private, but scream nastily at everyone they know (and lots of strangers) during election season, to drop off.

Which is part of the problem, actually. Not the absence of nastiness, which is rarely useful, but the absence of real engagement. More than anything else, representational politics encourage disengagement, punctuated by shrieking madness around every election. When political parties seem like the only possible route for change, more substantial and positive ways of improving the world are ignored. I’ve heard that Facebook is ‘the’ place to be for the Cambodian election, but I left Facebook during the last American election, when people who hadn’t done a lick of organizing or work to improve society in four years suddenly started accusing all their friends of being on the wrong side of history. Then, a week afterwards, they were back to watching sitcoms and guzzling diet soda. This version of politics is entertainment. Distraction. Not change. Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding the Public Disciplines for February 2012

In sounding on February 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Basically just a link dump. Lots of good things keeping me busy offline.

  • Religion Bulletin reviews a new book by Hans Kippenberg titled “Violence as Worship.” They also published an interview with Paul-François Tremlett on the “Legacy of Structuralism,” and some straight talk on graduate study in a post titled “So you think you want to get a Ph.D.?
  • A new peer-reviewed, open access, ethnography journal, Hau, is making waves, especially in the wake of AAA’s decision to not support Open Access, and then their sudden reversal of that same decision. Savage Minds has covered Hau in this context here, here, and here. Savage Minds has also written about open access publishing from the perspective of Ed Carr, here.
  • Understanding Society weblog has this good post on Defining a Social Subject, as well as a specifically Weberian take on the same subject.

Sounding on Cambodia, January 25 2012

In sounding on January 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Happy New Year, everyone!  The Chinese Year of the Dragon is here, and many of us in Southeast Asia will catch up in April!

Just a few days ago, Cambodian unionists held a small ceremony at Watt Langka in Phnom Penh near the Independence Monument, to remember Free Trade Union Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia president Chea Vichea, who was murdered just outside the temple’s walls on January 22, 2004. A wonderful film has been made about his murder and the aftermath, which drew some international attention to Cambodia’s apparently hopeless judiciary. FTUWKC seems to have eliminated their old website, and replaced it with a new, more frequently updated site, here. Twitter. Facebook.

We’re still experiencing mass faintings at factories in Cambodia. Noise has been made about fixing the situation, but it’s unclear to me what concrete steps are being taken.

One of my favorite Cambodia-related blog posts of the last year has to be Alison in Cambodia’s excellent post on the “Navel of the Village,” focused on Lovea. Lots of excellent photos, and a wonderful opening to the topic. Go look!

The Center for Khmer Studies has announced a new conference, June 9-10, 2012, on the topic “Religious studies in Cambodia: understanding the old and tracing the new.”

Northern Illinois University will be hosting the International Cambodia Studies Conference in September (14-16), 2012, in Rockford, Illinois, on the theme: “Imagining Cambodia.” Deadline for abstracts: March 15.

A new issue of the journal of Contemporary Aesthetics is devoted to “Art and Aesthetics in Southeast Asia.” All content is free, peer-reviewed, and online. Go check it out.

Archaeologists excavate sculpture workshop in Angkor,” says the headline over at the Southeast Asian Archaeology newsblog. Maybe this will help keep the criticisms of contemporary art workshops in tourist centers in contemporary Cambodia down? Nah, probably not. Very cool find, however.

The International Federation for Human Rights has released its regular summary of the Human Rights situation in Cambodia (2010-2011). Here’s the summary:

In 2010-2011, the space for civil society continued to shrink, with increased limitations on the freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly, in particular through unfair and illegitimate judicial proceedings. Human rights defenders, operating in an increasingly restrictive legal environment, found it extremely difficult and risky to denounce human rights abusers and bad practices, while peaceful demonstrations were prevented or violently dispersed. Also, acts of intimidation continued. In addition to NGO members, many trade union leaders, land rights activists, community leaders and journalists faced fierce retaliation for documenting and denouncing abuses.

Some folks know me as someone with a rather obsessive interest in peasantry and farming. There’s an absolutely excellent, short essay from Henry Saragih, the secretary general of the Indonesian Peasant Union and the general coordinator of the International peasant’s movement Via Campesina, on CNN, about Indonesian Farmers. Most of the general trends apply directly to Cambodia, or indeed peasants everywhere. Since over 80% of contemporary Cambodians have primary work experience in peasant rice production to this day, it’s worth considering. Speaking of farming, is contract farming good for farmers? Could be: according to a new study, noted on the Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog.

Sounding Cambodia on November 28, 2011

In sounding on November 28, 2011 at 9:12 am

I absolutely adore this short, poetic little post from Kounila Keo’s awesome “Blue Lady Blog,” about night noodle soup.  When I first moved to Cambodia, we would hear this hollow-sounding wooden block come up and down our street about 11:30 every night. Didn’t take long to find out what it was, but it remains one of my first truly sensual memories of Cambodia.  Awesome.

I’m less pleased about these next two stories. In this one, reporter Faine Greenwood tackles the stupidity of the Daily Mail’s presentation of Angelina Jolie’s trip to Cambodia, in which they call it a “Danger Trip.” sheesh.  Greenwood demolishes them pretty well, though they will undoubtedly not learn.

LTO Cambodia, a white American male married to an Asian woman, with two kids, experienced one of the fallouts of (a) the horrors and wide spread of human trafficking, and (b) the media pornification of this issue, which empowers stupid people with ‘good morals but no sense’ to attack anybody they see who doesn’t meet a standard stereotype of ‘normality.’  In other words, he got called a pedophile for walking around with his own kids.  I think he did pretty well.

Sounding Religion and Anthropology November 28 2011

In sounding on November 28, 2011 at 9:05 am

Understanding Society is an excellent blog that focuses on key issues in sociology – especially contemporary sociological theory – and does a very good job of explaining the concepts. I’ve been dealing with the issue of social complexity for awhile now in my attempts to think about what it means to be Cambodian, Buddhist, Khmer, etc., etc., in contemporary Cambodia. However, there are many different approaches to complexity, and they are not all commensurate to each other. Here’s a post specifically on Social Complexity.

That’s all ‘theory.’ How about some important practice?  Nancy Scheper-Hughes, whose name should be beatified upon her passing by the church of Anthropology, is interviewed here, on the Global Trade With Poor People’s Kidneys.  It’s a long piece, on Scheper-Hughes in general; this section is on organ trade.  I demand you both read it. :)

Cambodians have similar fears to the ones Scheper-Hughes encountered.  I am unaware of any studies – or even journalism – that examines the reality of organ trade in Cambodia.  Anybody have ideas or suggestions?

Speaking of three-part weblog interviews: here’s a good three-parter on the anthropology blog Savage Minds with Jason Baird, about Open Access academic publishing.

Speaking of Open Access academic publishing: the inaugural issue of Hau: a journal of ethnographic theory, is imminently to be released, with articles from very heavy hitters: Sahlins, Graeber, Wagner, and others.  Wow.  Plus, a dear friend of mine is on the editorial board! Very proud of her, but don’t know if she’d want me to name her.

The Religion Bulletin has a new piece on “Hitler, Religion, and the Bible,” in which the author examines another person’s blog post “overview of the involvement of biblical scholars in promoting Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish policies.”

Sounding Death for November 17, 2011

In sounding on November 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

Ahh, mid-term season, when all individual research writing shrieks to a halt in the face of grading, grant-writing, recommendation-letters, etc., etc. Perhaps that’s what makes us think of death so frequently in this season, and not merely the traditional association of Autumn with death and renewal. Whatever causes it, the interwebz have been throwing a lot of death-related material out there for us to enjoy.

A new Pyu burial site found in Sri Ksetra, Burma/Myanmar, and consists of “urns collected in a brick structure.” (via Southeast Asian Archaeology Weblog) This urban settlement thrived from 4th-9th centuries CE. The Pyu are one of the major four ethnic groups considered indigenous to the regions, the Khmer, Pyu, Cham, and Mon. One of the many interesting things about the burial site, to me, is the existence of grouped urns, as is still standard practice among the Khmer.

The “Kola” group are an ethnic Burmese group that used to thrive in the Pailin region of Cambodia, especially as gem miners and merchants. Although sometimes described as ‘disappeared,’ it might be better to say that the Kola in Pailin have been supplanted: it’s still possible to find people who describe themselves as Kola, but I have not heard of a
“Kola community.” Regardless, a Kola Stupa in the region has just been restored, and it looks AWESOME.

Buzzfeed had a nice photo essays on the Bolivia’s “Day of the Skulls.” Perhaps a bit focused on the ‘transgressive’ aspects (transgressive especially to the presumed Norteamericano viewer, I think), but still a number of very nice photos.

Or perhaps you’d like to take a peek at a lovely necropolis? (surprisingly high property values!)

Atlas Obscura finally got around to profiling the Choeung Ek Memorial Stupa. Pretty much the sort of detail you’d imagine.

In the Czech Republic, Atlas Obscura also profiled the ossuary of Křtiny, in which the skulls of approximately 1,000 people are (mostly) painted with a black laurel-wreath design.

Some of the links and images in the posts above are taken from the newly-published book, The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses, by Paul Koudounaris, which looks grimly beautiful.

A fascinating new mortuary practice in South Korea is catching press; it’s being cast as a new way to mourn, but I wonder if that’s the whole story. And if so, why now? Interesting stuff. The practice? Turning the remains of loved ones into prayer beads.

Link Dump for October 2011

In sounding on October 24, 2011 at 4:51 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post anything here; on the other hand, my book writing is going well. Here are some things that I wanted to post here, with very little commentary.  Just getting caught up:

General Academic, and Religious Studies, Links

Ever curious about what the Religious Studies Book Review is really for? What it’s supposed to accomplish? Or, how to write one? Here’s the first third of a good essay on the topic! The Nature and Function of the Religious Studies Book Review (Part 1 of 3): Writing the Book Review

This excellent visualization of the relative isolation of various academic departments. Hint: anthro is very isolated!

As the financing and operation of the higher education industry becomes an increasingly heated topic, expect more radical discussions, or even (as here, pretty conservative discussions of radical topics) like this – “Do Faculty Strikes Work?” – in places like Inside Higher Ed.

Here’s a nice piece on “New Religious Movements” as an interpretive category. Good to read, for those interested in religion and innovation.

Good advice for the adoption of a ‘Five Year Plan’ strategy (with important distancing rhetoric from the USSR and the PRC!) for academic careers, from Kerim Friedman over at Savage Minds.

This brutal quote about Gender and Success in the Academy, from Kate Clancy’s excellent “The three things I learned at the Purdue Conference for Pre-Tenure Women: on being a radical scholar”:

To be clear, it’s not that academia weeds out the weak. The research on attrition for women and people of color indicates it’s not that women who leave are not confident, or are weak, but that they know their self-worth and have decided they’d rather take their toys to another sandbox where they’ll actually be appreciated.
But those of us who insist on playing with our toys in the academic sandbox need to be radicals. And I do think a lot of the ways we need to be radical involves how we perform our job: we need to set boundaries so that we aren’t always doing the service work no one wants, we need to make our passions our scholarly interests in the face of some who would invalidate it, we need to perform our confidence in front of people who might undermine us. We need to get tenure.

Buddhism Links

Those following the fascinating development of Ven. Luon Savath, Khmer Buddhist monk currently promoting “Engaged Buddhism” in Cambodia and receiving a lot of negative pressure from authorities as a result, will be interested to know that Ven. Savath has his own page, and hosts live and recorded lectures there.

Prof. Bryan Cuevas, whose work on death and the afterlife in Buddhism is the subject of a new book by him, is interviewed in an hour-long interview on the great site, New Books in Buddhist Studies!

General Funereal Studies

A good critique of the interminably stupid iGrief masquerading as compassion in the world, with the passing of Steve Jobs. I certainly wish the man no ill, and do not begrudge him compassion, but am more than a little disturbed at the hagiographical saint-making going on here, when videos like this one, below, are almost completely ignored.

A gorgeous HDR photo of a Japanese cemetery should be seen by all (from the astonishingly wonderful “Stuck in Customs“)

A small burial site found in Northern Vietnam, changing the way we think about pre-history.

Arch West, the inventor of Doritos, passed. Doritos were sprinkled on his grave. Rest in Powdery Flavor, Arch.

The great Khmer language scholar Khin Sok, also recently passed. The world of Khmer studies is considerably poorer for his passing. Rest In Peace, Lokkru.

Some Random Stuff

For my upcoming “Defense Against the Dark Arts” class, a book I’d like to read: “The Inquisitor’s Apprentice.”

And, a lovely piece from Ethnography.com on “love, duty, and marriage in a Thai novel,” on the novelist Siburapha’s “Behind the Painting,” originally published in 1938, and translated into English by David Smyth.

Sounding Cambodia and Primitive Accumulation

In sounding on September 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

Sometimes a number of stories come out all at once, and reminds you that no matter the supposed ‘distance’ from my topic, economics are often central to individual and social practice. All of these stories came in one day, in the Phnom Penh Post.

One of the themes I’ve been concentrating on in my new research is primitive accumulation in Cambodia. Primitive Accumulation, as used by Marx, is the process by which relatively ‘free’ peasants, who lived socially off the land via the management and sharing of the commons, were transformed into waged laborers, or those seeking wage labor, the so-called working class.  All of this of course has a great deal of contemporary resonance in watching Cambodia (or any number of other places) today.  I’m hardly the only person to have noticed this. Anthropologist Iain Baird of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has been publishing on this topic.  I was fortunate enough to meet him in person last year, and he directed me to a number of his relevant articles, which I recommend.

Of course, in Cambodia, one of the great stories of primitive accumulation appear as land grabs.  Dey Krahom previously, and Boeung Kak now, become relatively famous because of their location in Phnom Penh, but land grabs have been a constant threat in more rural areas for quite a long time.  The Buddha sangha in Cambodia has been confronted with a scandal in the last few months, as activist monk Venerable Luon Savath has been progressively stripped of his ability to rely upon sangha requisites – especially shelter.  Banned from staying in capital temples previously, he has now been evicted from Watt Ounalom.  Some of his supporters – reportedly from Boeung Kak – helped him move his belongings.

More generally, Cambodia is waiting to hear the US government’s decision on import tariffs from Cambodia.  Cambodia’s export markets are not terribly diverse, and therefore highly dependent on state-to-state relations with its few customers.  The United States and the European Union occupy the biggest seats at the table.  As a result, decisions on tariffs in the US make enormous changes in Cambodia.  While the Cambodia garment industry has been adding jobs in the last quarter, the reduction or elimination of select tariffs would almost certainly result in the rapid addition of more jobs.  This is absolutely necessary if Cambodia is ever to experience significant secondary industrialization and the development of a more varied urban workforce.  Dependency on agricultural exports and garment work is a recipe for constant crisis.  But, challenges in the judicial sector (widespread perceptions of corruption, e.g.) and in retention of profits (expatriation of profits, e.g.) remain the largest challenge in this regard.

Finally, after a series of mass faintings at factories, in which employers and upstream brands have promised investigations, etc., the Arbitration Council has declared a strike over irregular pay and 8 other significant problems illegal, and ordered the workers back to their stations.  The union in question the Cambodian Coalition of Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) has accepted the decision, but this is significant in so far as it appears to be setting the stage for the new norm that the government and the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) are hoping becomes reality after the passage of the new Labor Law.

 

Sounding on Buddhism for September 1 2011

In sounding on September 1, 2011 at 12:26 pm

From the Isn’t It Cool files: one of the most important Buddhist institutions of learning in history is about to be rebuilt. Thanks to news from Noel of the Southeast Asian Archaeology Weblog.

The site is the ancient Dong Duong Buddhist College, built in ancient Champa, and hence on the crucially important sea routes between China and India (and beyond). Many important Buddhist travelers stopped, stayed, studied, and taught at Dong Duong.  The Encyclopedia Brittanica writes of Dong Duong that

Apart from My Son there are one or two other sites in north and central Vietnam where Cham art was made in quantity. The most important of these is Dong Duong, in Quang Nam. It is a ruined Buddhist monastery complex of the late 9th century, conceived on the most beautifully elaborated plan of structured space in Champa. The architectural detail is distinguished from the My Son work by its greater emphasis upon the plasticity of architectural elements such as angle pilasters and porticoes. The circuit wall was about half a mile (1 km) long and once contained many shrines dedicated to Buddhist deities. It is possible that, when this complex of brick courts, halls, and gate pavilions was intact, it may have resembled very closely the contemporary Buddhist monasteries of northeastern India.

Dong Duong is a total mess at the moment: Read the rest of this entry »

Sounding Cambodia on August 2, 2011

In sounding on August 2, 2011 at 11:03 am
  • 8-year-old dies after explosion at cremation in Cambodia
  • Alison In Cambodia blogs summer fieldwork
  • Baphuon Reconstruction Completed!
  • Pansukula for Chea Vichea in France
  • Professor Sorpong Peou discovers his father is alive, ater 35 years.
more after the jump…
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