I don’t ever announce that I’m coming to Cambodia more than a day or so ahead of arriving; maybe that will change someday, but for now I still largely feel that the possible advantages of advance warning (possible or scheduled meetings, contacts, etc.) rarely materialize (Cambodia is still largely a face-to-face culture of getting things done, it seems), and the potential negatives (unwanted attention) too common.
So here I am, in the United States. Tomorrow morning I head to Cambodia to begin a new research project. I can’t tell you how weird (and mostly great) that feels. I’ve been working on roughly the same set of interlocking projects since 1997, and while I still have many things to publish from that period, it’s also wonderful to be able to begin a wholly new project.
This new project focuses on social change and religious creativity, including a number of key questions that are not limited to Cambodia or any particular situation:
- What is creativity, and how do we recognize it?
- What is the particular force (mode, technique, power, etc.) through which “religion” is locally imagined to relate to creativity?
I.e., did God create the heavens and the earth, it is that just a natural thing unrelated to gods? Similarly, racist scholars of Religious Studies and Orientalist fields frequently attributed special creativity to racial characteristics, such that “Aryan” was creative and “Jewish” was uncreative, which in a classic moment of intersectional oppression was collapsed into ritual, such that rituals, Jews, and lack of creativity were opposed to myths, Christians (especially Protestants), and creativity.
- How does this creativity challenge or attempt reform of existing situations?
Perhaps obviously, each of these questions can be broken out into multiple addition questions. Each could pose the basis for a book on its own. But I intend to focus on creativity, ritual, and social protest in contemporary urban Cambodia. This allows me to focus on the people who are self consciously deploying religious belief, ritual, and imagery to change something about Cambodia, and ask them to self-represent about how they understand religious creativity to be involved, or not.
Many of the social protests I’m interested in are related to land grabs, unions, and political rights.
I will spend the next period of time interviewing lots of monks, protestors, unionists, ministerial officials, workers, and krū.
I doubt I’ll blog often, but you can check me out on Twitter,