cambodia, read

John Burgess’ ‘A Woman of Angkor’

I’ve just received a copy of John Burgess’ new novel, A Woman of Angkor, published by River Books. This book intends to be a historical novel that takes the regular people of the ancient Khmer kingdoms as seriously as most take the rulers.

It also comes highly recommended by folks with reputations, at least judging this particular book by the blurbs on its cover, including lauds from archaeologist Michael Coe, and art historian and Angkor tour guide author Dawn Rooney.

Most promising in terms of its writing style, however, is the lovely quote from John le Carre:

Burgess has done something that I believe is unique in modern writing: set a credible and seemingly authentic tale in the courts and temples of ancient Angkor to stir the imagination and excite our historical interest.

I’m looking forward to reading it in my spare free moments, and would love to hear from readers in the comments if they have read it, or might read it along with me.

The chapters are generally quite short, so I’m going to set very modest pace of 1-2 chapters a day. I’ll write up my comments below, as well.

edit: I’ve decided against summarizing in the comments below, both to preserve against spoilers, and to allow for a more summary writeup at the end.


Sounding on Cambodia, January 25 2012

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.


TEACH: Ritual and Ecology in Southeast Asia

I’m very pleased that I have been awarded a grant from the Presidential Initiative on Curricular Renewal (PICR) here at Macalester College. The topic of this year’s PICR grants was ‘sustainability,’ and the class for which I received the grant is titled Ritual and Ecology in Southeast Asia.

Here’s the description of the class from the grant proposal (after the jump):

Continue reading


Sackler Gallery “Gods of Angkor” Lectures on Youtube!

The first of nine (9!) lectures relating to the stellar-looking, envy-inspiring, and (since I’ve compelled nearby friends to go take a very close look on my behalf), apparently gorgeous exhibit, Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia. This exhibit ends in January 2011, so go there now!

If you can’t, thank the gods of Angkor for the internet (I imagine they would have named the internet after the “Net of Indra,” giving rise to the near-alternative universe name, The Indranet, but I digress…): you get to see the lectures on youtube, as they emerge.


The first lecture, which begins after a lovely introduction by Louise Cort, the Director of Ceramics at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and somewhat more to the point, the Co-curator of this exhibit, at the 5’55 mark, is by John Guy, Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and titled “Golden Towers: Reconstructing the Lost Ornamentation of Angkor, Freer and Sackler.” And thanks to the Indranet, it is embedded below:

Director Cort has made the immediately forthcoming lecture series titles available; I sure hope as many people see these in person as possible! The full announcement is reprinted after the jump… Continue reading


Sounding on Archaeology for June 21, 2010

There’s been some pretty crazy-great archeological news out there.  Some of the stuff I starred to point out specifically, recently, were these:


Sounding on Cambodian archaeology and ancient history


Auguste Barth & Abel Bergaigne, Sanskrit Incriptions

A 10th-century inscription with potential relevance to Pchum Ben, brought to my attention by លោក​គ្រូ David Chandler.

Barth, Auguste. Bergaigne, Abel. Eds. Inscriptions sanscrites du Cambodge et de Campa. Paris: Imprimerie nationale. 1885-1893. VOl. 2, p. 414.

From inscription on the steles of the “East Baray,” built around 900 CE by King Yasovarman, to the east of Angkor. The East Mebon, built by King Rajendravarman in 953, rises out of its center. French starts after the jump: Continue reading