erikwdavis

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This blog and it’s changes

In Uncategorized on February 7, 2014 at 1:11 pm

gate gate paragate parasamgate, bodhi svaha!

(gone, gone, really gone, truly really gone, hail wisdom!)

Well, not actually gone. But in keeping with the obvious observation that everything changes, and given that I’ve returned to blogging here on a slightly more regular basis, I thought I would take a moment to note some of the changes.

I started this blog way back in 2004, if memory serves, not even on wordpress. I learned HTML and hard-coded everything using a now disappeared java-based app to write up ongoing reflections, unsorted thoughts, and links to interesting things from my fieldwork in Cambodia (2003-2006). Later on, I switched over to this wordpress format, which I continue to find relatively congenial, but as my writing focus shifted more toward scholarly publication and the end of fieldwork, the blog became more of a place for sharing news stories about Cambodia, while retaining the occasional beginnings of thought, unfinished reflections, etc. I also managed a separate blog to update family back in the USA about my growing family, since we turned from two to four during fieldwork, and this was before Facebook!

I now use Twitter for news broadcasting. If that’s your thing, you can find me there at @erikwdavis . The same warning that I include on this blog applies to my twitter account:

I have a job! In that job, I teach some of the same subjects I discuss on this blog! But this page doesn’t represent my employer’s positions, or my manner as a teacher. They haven’t reached out to endorse this page, and I haven’t asked for it.

An additional caveat applies to my @twitter account: I often share news and opinions there that are far from my scholarly fields of expertise, and have more to do with elements of my personal life and interest, such as the multi-faceted and crucial struggles of feminism and gender equality – including trans equality, unions, and neurodiversity. Sometimes these will overlap with Cambodia – most especially in regards to feminism and unions, but very often they will not. Even better than following me, just add #Cambodia to your saved search list in the Twitter app. I do not use nor encourage Facebook, though I’m aware of its astonishing popularity in Cambodia; with no apologies to its founders, I find it a bit of a cesspool, encouraging the worst behavior. At least on twitter, there’s no expectation that you’re speaking only to your friends and people who already know you.

I have a book, with the working title “Deathpower: Imagining Religion in Contemporary Cambodia,” under contract and review with an academic press. I’ll be promoting it shamelessly once the process has moved further along, but I’m hopeful that it will not only be received and read by a wide variety of people, ranging from professional and amateur academics, to English-reading Cambodians, to the merely curious. Parts of it are intentionally provocative, and I sincerely hope to provoke debates and conversations that can move our collective knowledges forward. I don’t know everything, and consider true scholarship a process of conversation and collective knowledge-building. I hope that my book and my articles can provoke knowledge better than they themselves represent.

One quick note: Udaya, the trilingual academic journal on Cambodian studies cofounded by Ang Choulean and Ashley Thompson, has made the leap to Open Access online, as has the Khmer sister publication, Khmer Renaissance!. I cannot recommend these enough. Please go check them out.

And with that, I’ll leave you with my favorite Cambodian video of the last couple of weeks, a cover of Pharrell WIlliams’ “Happy” performed by folks associated with Epic Arts Cambodia in Kampot.

Cambodian Supreme Court to Hear Case in Chea Vichea Killing

In Uncategorized on December 12, 2008 at 10:38 am

AFTER 1,799 days in prison, Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun will have another chance at freedom.

The two men convicted of murdering trade union leader Chea Vichea will have their case heard by the Supreme Court on December 31, a court official told the Post.

Chhoun Chantha, the deputy general prosecutor at the Supreme Court, confirmed the trial date and said that Supreme Court Deputy President Khim Ponn will preside over the case.

Chea Mony, the current president of the Free Trade Union and brother of activist Chea Vichea, said that he had received an invitation from the Supreme Court to attend the trial and reiterated his belief that the two men were innocent.

“We will wait for the decision from Supreme Court. The previous courts acted under pressure from the government,” Chea Mony said. “If the court is independent, and they investigate the case, then the men will be freed.”

Chea Vichea, an outspoken union party leader and Sam Rainsy Party supporter, was shot and killed in broad daylight in Phnom Penh in January 2004. Six days later, police arrested Sok Sam Oeun and Born Samnang for the crime.

via The Phnom Penh Post – Chea Vichea ‘killers’ appeal.

R.I.P, Svay Ken

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Thanks to Jinja for putting this out at his blog. RIP, លោក​គ្រូ Svay Ken

Svay Ken

Gifted artist Svay Ken passed away today at the age of the age of 76.

[Above: self-portrait from The Advisor #4]

via Webbed Feet, Web Log » Blog Archive » Svay Ken: 1933 – 2008.

The Economist Article You Can't Read in Thailand

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2008 at 10:13 am

Why not? ‘Cause it’s about a (very possibly dying) monarch:

Below the fold: Read the rest of this entry »

Cambodian Garment Factories Closing: Debate about causes, None about effects

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2008 at 10:08 am

Garment Factories closing, fast. Alarm bells? Phnom Penh Post:

Cambodia’s garment exports to the US – the Kingdom’s largest foreign textile market – totaled US$1.8 billion in the first nine months of 2008, slightly down from the same period last year, according to data from the US Department of Commerce.

Last year, the sector exported $2.9 billion worth of garment produced in 319 factories that employed more than 380,000 workers, according to figures from Cambodia’s Ministry of Commerce.

But some 30 garment factories have closed their doors so far this year, leaving nearly 20,000 workers unemployed, said Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC).

The effects of these wide-spread layoffs could be devastating for many impoverished families in the countryside, for whom the monthly salaries of relatives working in factories are one of the few sources of income available to them.

The Cambodian garment slowdown is rooted in the US recession, which has seen sharp drops in clothing sales, industry officials say.

US retailer sales tumbled in November, the worst monthly decline in almost four decades, according to Bloomberg, and the Dow Jones US Retail Index is down about 28 percent on the year.

Nuon Veasna, an employee education coordinator for the International Labour Organisation in Cambodia, said the increasing effects of international market turmoil has made it more difficult for unions to protect workers rights.

“It has always been difficult to demand worker protections from employers, but it has become harder as purchase orders continue to fall,” he said.

But Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers, says Cambodia’s garment sector has remained largely unaffected by international markets.

“For me, I do not believe the global economic crisis has affected factories much because the industry has made a lot of
progress recently,” he said, saying instead that the decisions by individual investors to close shop in Cambodia were to blame for the layoffs.

“The closing of garment factories is the result of long-time investors who want to pull out of Cambodia … in order to escape legal confrontations with their workers,” he said.

“I remain sceptical as long as there is no confirmation from relevant ministries or [national auditors] that factories have closed because of the global crisis,” he said.

Reasons for the growing decline in garment sales might vary, but the effects are not in dispute.
Sitting on a hammock beneath a plastic tarp, 29-year-old Se Thy has created a makeshift camp in front of Phnom Penh Garment City Ltd in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

He represents 500 workers seeking compensation for lost wages.
“I have been waiting here for 10 months since the factory closed,” he said.

Anthropophagus

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Another blog recommendation: of late, I’ve become enamored of anthropophagus, a great blog by an anthropology student who writes about all manner of things political, anthropological, and more. A couple of examples of the sorts of things that come up, prolifically, in her links, that I would not otherwise have noticed:

Dead Nuns Still a Health Hazard? While those who survived old-style Catholic educations may only consider living nuns truly dangerous, a historic crypt in Montreal has refused to allow a crypt to be opened, because the nuns interred within died of infectious diseases. Conversation on metafilter continues. [via]

The reactionary nature of the subalternist. An article from Monthly Review, by Pratyush Chandra, writes compelling of the ‘usefulness’ of terrorism and victimization to ‘the system,’ (which I would like to see better defined) and includes a surprising quote from Gayatri Spivak (“the scholar” in the below excerpt):

Terrorism in the present shape is not a threat to the system but like its counterpart creates an opportunity for the hegemonic bloc to (re)create consensus to (counter)terrorize and further subalternize the alienated voices and stop them from ever becoming a meaningful and organized threat to the system by transcending their own subalternity.  A prominent post-modernist, post-colonialist scholar categorically said, “Who the hell wants to protect subalternity?  Only extremely reactionary, dubious anthropologistic museumizers”1 — like terrorists and (counter)terrorists.  How do we break this vicious circle?  The scholar added: “No activist wants to keep the subaltern in the space of difference. . . .  You don’t give the subaltern voice.  You work for the bloody subaltern, you work against subalternity.”2

Terrorism in the present shape is not a threat to the system but like its counterpart creates an opportunity for the hegemonic bloc to (re)create consensus to (counter)terrorize and further subalternize the alienated voices and stop them from ever becoming a meaningful and organized threat to the system by transcending their own subalternity.  A prominent post-modernist, post-colonialist scholar categorically said, “Who the hell wants to protect subalternity?  Only extremely reactionary, dubious anthropologistic museumizers”1 — like terrorists and (counter)terrorists.  How do we break this vicious circle?  The scholar added: “No activist wants to keep the subaltern in the space of difference. . . .  You don’t give the subaltern voice.  You work for the bloody subaltern, you work against subalternity.”2

During my qualifying exams, I got in very serious trouble for making an argument very much along these lines, following largely in the vein of Arif Dirlik, whose work I like very much. One of my committee members literally started screaming at me (thankfully, the member in question was on the phone, and not there in person).

This quote from Spivak makes me wonder what she thinks she was doing for so many years (see below, and especially in the famous exchange between Gyan Prakash and O’Hanlon and Washbrook, which picks up Spivak’s themes). Maybe she’s changed her mind, or did I misread her and the founders of ‘subaltern studies?’

  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” In Marxism and The Interpretation of Culture. Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, eds. London: Macmillan, 1988. pp. 271-313.
  • Prakash, Gyan. Writing Post-Orientalist Histories in the Third World: Perspectives from Indian Historigraphy,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32, 2 (April 1990) pp. 383-408.
  • O’Hanlon, Rosalind, and David Washbrook, “After Orientalism: Culture, Criticism, and Politics in the Third World,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 34, 1 (January 1992), pp. 141-167.
  • Prakash, Gyan. “Can the Subaltern Ride?” A Reply to O’Hanlon and Washbrook,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 34, 1 (January 1992) pp. 168-184.

Neuroscience, Grief, and Ghosts

In Uncategorized on December 5, 2008 at 11:16 am

Vaughan, over at the great Mind Hacks blog, recently had an article published in Scientific American’s Mind Matters section. It’s a touching piece about the commonality of a supposedly rare occurrence: confronting the dead. It’s really worth reading, which you can do here. For a teaser, see below:

The dead stay with us, that much is clear. They remain in our hearts and minds, of course, but for many people they also linger in our senses—as sights, sounds, smells, touches or presences. Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to bereavement but are rarely discussed, because people fear they might be considered insane or mentally destabilised by their loss. As a society we tend to associate hallucinations with things like drugs and mental illness, but we now know that hallucinations are common in sober healthy people and that they are more likely during times of stress.

A Common Hallucination
Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing. As a marker of how vivid such visions can seem, almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experiences. In other words, these weren’t just peripheral illusions: they could evoke the very essence of the deceased.

Dead Body Politics in the Aftermath of Mumbai Attacks

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2008 at 9:53 am

A great example of the sort of dead body politics I’ve been discussing with my students in my “How To Do Things With Dead People” class this semester, the Muslim Council Trust of India has announced that the Mumbai attackers should not be allowed to be buried as muslims.

more about “Dead Body Politics in the Aftermath o…“, posted with vodpod

An Ey Srey An

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

លោក​គ្រូ Frank noted in my last post the debt that Preap Sovath’s great Nom Banchok video owes to the early 1970’s movie An Ey Srey An, which he used to (still does?) regularly show in his Khmer Language classes at SEASSI.

An Ey Srey An is really a great film (my favorite part includes a bear), and the duelling Nom Banchok sellers’ song is a real highlight. They don’t make movies like this anymore in Cambodia, more’s the pity. Here are the two videos together, for your enjoyment and comparison.

h/t to Lokkru, and cheers to Preap Sovath for ‘citing’ this classic Khmer movie.

Picture of the Ashokan Stele containing the Buddha's skull in China

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2008 at 9:18 am

Still skeptical, but the story continues, this time with pictures (of the stele, not the urn or the relics) over at Epoch Times (via Shambala Sunspace)

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