Ward Churchill Fired

The American academy, and the American society, is poorer today, as we continue to stifle academic free speech, even that which is as meticulously documented and backed up as Ward Churchill’s (I dare anyone to read his footnotes to any of his serious articles, follow the citations up, and then claim that his arguments are unfounded).

Churchill was fired from his position yesterday at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He’s suing, which he should, but hopefully the rest of the country, including those who disagree with him, will wake up and realize that the new McCarthyism is the same as the old, and it is still unacceptable.

Anumodhanea Wat Munisotaram Ban Bañjoh Sima Haoy!

That’s right, everybody, there’s a new Khmer Vihear in town – it’s beautiful, on top of a hill surrounded by farmland, in traditional Khmer style of modern building materials, has an ‘activated’ Buddha image, an abbot and a few resident monks, and as of today, a fully active and installed sima (boundary).

Every temple requires a boundary – at least around one building, which is the location of the regular mutual and public confession sessions. In these sessions, the collected monks at a local hermitage gather together to chant, collectively and in unison, the 227 ascetic rules (the monastic code, essentially). They are also supposed to confess if they have transgressed any of these prior to the group chanting of the rule. Punishments or restrictions are also meted out, according to settled Vinaya tradition.

The maintenance of a sacred ascetic discipline is not often the most interesting of subjects for Western students of Buddhism, who are more often drawn to the doctrinal or even, of late, the ritual. Very little work has been done on the Vinaya. (That said, the work that does exist on Vinaya is most commonly exceedingly excellent, and very rarely read). However, among the Buddhist laity in Southeast Asia, it is the adherence to this ascesis which qualifies monks, more than any other qualification, as valid fields of merit. Without this ascesis, monks are frauds. Beyond the personal human tragedy involved in living life as a fraud, it also makes the monk a fradulent means of creating merit.

Given this emphasis, it is perhaps not at all surprising that the singlemost important community ritual in Cambodian Buddhism is widely considered to be the Bun Bañjoh Sima Ceremony, (បុណ្យ​បញ្ចុះ​ស៉ីមា – The Meritorious Boundary Foundation Ceremony, or Sima Ceremony) in which the necessary Sima installation is performed, and the confession and public recognition of a community’s morality is publicly acclaimed and validated.

And it was with great pomp, fanfare, and acclaim that Wat Munisotaram in Hampton, Minnesota, today completed the final day of their four-day Sima Ceremony. They join a select group of Khmer Buddhist temples in the United States, but even rarer is the existence of a new Vihear (central shrine, and in modern times, the location of the confessions, hence the site of the sima boundary) in traditional Khmer style, made out of modern materials. I made a previous visit with a class of mine, and had a wonderful time in the aloneness of the area – it was just us and the monks for miles around. More than a bit different from today! (( purists beware! This is not an art history blog! I refer only to the fact that the temple is shaped roughly like a Khmer Buddhist temple and attempts to follow some basic rules of form!!!)) Continue reading

Rice Ethnicities and Economies

There’s an old racist colonial saw about the peoples of Southeast Asia that continues to enjoy some popularity, among both the neocolonialist expats ((of which I was a part for three years during my fieldwork – I’m in the glass house at which I’m throwing stones)) and middle and upper class Cambodians, at least. It goes like this:

The Vietnamese grow the rice
The Cambodians watch the rice grow
The Lao listen to the rice grow
The Thai sell the rice

Obviously, this saying has some problems beyond its casual racism, which sees the ‘industrious’ Vietnamese as a source of profitable production (but incapable of profiting from it themselves, since they don’t sell the rice), the Cambodians as ignorant and complacent peasant farmers uninterested in profits, the Lao as just plain lazy, and the Thai as natural capitalists. One big issue is the fact that there don’t appear to be enough rice-millers. Continue reading

Phoenix and the society for the anthropology of religion

I had a lovely time at the annual meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion (( a society under the umbrella of the American Anthropological Association ))where I gave a short paper on women I met who came back from the dead – it’s actually pretty common enough in Cambodia. My paper went well enough, though I pretty seriously misjudged the amount of time I had (15 minutes instead of the standard 20 – ouch!).

There was an excellent address-The Roy Rappaport Lecture-by anthropologist Jean Comaroff, and I personally had a great time with my host and new friend Alberto Perez Pereiro, another Cambodian studies fiend and student of Cambodian religion. I’ll let him say more about his own work, should he choose.

Cheers to all, and to all a good…. Yes. I’m very tired.

Garment Factory Shocks

During the first trimester of 2007, 9 garment factories were closed due to lack of orders, end of contracts, and bankruptcy. In Khemara, director of the department of labor, told Rasmei Kampuchea on Wednesday that the closing of these garment factories affect 4,003 jobs, 3,587 of which involving women. Also, in the first trimester of 2007, 4 factories have suspended a number of jobs. This affects the jobs of 3,720 workers, 3,500 of whom are women. In the meantime, 3 new garment factories have been opened. They provided factory jobs to 419 workers. [link]

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is a problem.

Some Background:

Industrial Survival in Cambodia 

Garment Industries, Unions, and the State

There’s Too Much Killing In Cambodia

Some Chea Vichea News Updates