Link Dump for October 2011

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 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.


Devata Study at Angkor

Kent Davis, who runs the website and is in a long-running study of the so-called “apsaras” of Angkor Wat, has made it into the news lately, largely as a result of the very cool and interesting work he’s been doing on those same apsaras, which he is calling devatas. He’s received permission from the Cambodia Weekly to reprint the full article on his website, and I encourage you to head over there to read it.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the recent work in his study is the use of computer-aided scans to identify similar/identical faces.


“Terrible Karma” Cambodian Female Garment Worker Song, with translation

From a story by Uon Chin, Radio Free Asia, accessed on August 9, of a union rally in Phnom Penh, from July 25, of an estimate 5-7 thousand unionists.  A very sad song by female garment workers, titled “Terrible Karma.”  I typed out the song lyrics, and have included a first attempt at a translation (I am a bit intimidated by poetic translation, and found some of the lines difficult; suggestions for correction would be lovely, in the comments), below, after the break….

[update August 27, 2010: conversations with Chanroeun Pa, of  Cambodian Translation Link and Trent Walker of the Ho Center of Buddhist Studies at Stanford University have helped me amend some of the lines; thanks, Chanroeun and Trent!  The good things below are owed to the composers of the song, the bad things that remain are my fault.]

បទ «កម្ម​កំណាច​ឫស្សា» Continue reading


The Enclosure of Women’s Reproduction in Cambodia

I mentioned recently that I’d read the horrifying, amazing work of Silvia Federici recently, specifically her book Caliban and the witch: women, the body, and primitive accumulation. The argument, summarized briefly, is that

Caliban and the Witch shows that the body has been for women in capitalist society what the factory has been for male waged workers: the primary ground of their exploitation and resistance, as the female body has been appropriated by the state and men and forced to function as a means for the reproduction and accumulation of labor. (16)

In another section, Federici argues that Marxist ‘primitive accumulation’ involves the ‘enclosure’ not only of communal lands but also of social relations that stretches back to the origin of capitalism in 16th-century Europe and America.” (9)

In investigating the history of the enclosure (or ‘capture’) of women’s labor and bodies, especially their reproductive capacities, Federici looks to the 16th century of Europe, immediately after the Black Death killed off 1/3 of the European population.  The state response was frankly sexually domineering. The following is a lengthy quotation, but I dare you to stop reading it once you’ve begun (bold emphases are mine):

“As Jacques Rossiaud has shown in Medieval Prostitution (1988) in France, the municipal authorities practically decriminalized rape, provided the victims were women of the lower class. In 14th-century Venice, the rape of an unmarried proletarian woman rarely called for more than a slap on the wrist, even in the frequent case in which it involved a group assault (Ruggiero 1989:91-108). The same was true in most French cities. Here, the gang-rape of proletarian women became a common practice which the perpetrators would carry out openly and loudly at night, in groups of two to fifteen, breaking into their victims’ homes, or dragging their victims through the streets, without any attempt to hide or disguise themselves. Those who engaged in these ‘sports’ were young journeymen or domestic servants, and the penniless sons of well-to-do families, while the women targeted were poor girls, working as maids or washerwomen, of whom it was rumored that they were ‘kept’ by their masters (Rossiaud 1982: 22). On average, half of the town male youth, at some point, engaged in these assaults, which Rossiaud describes as a form of class protest, a means for proletarian men – who were forced to postpone marriage for many years because of their economic conditions – to get back ‘their own,’ and take revenge against the rich. But the results were destructive for all workers, as the state-backed raping of poor women undermined the class solidarity that had been achieved in the anti-feudal struggle.” (47-48)

Now, let’s read the most recent figures published by End Child Prostitution, Abuse, and Trafficking in Cambodia (ECPAT):

End Child Prostitution, Abuse, and Trafficking in Cambodia (ECPAT) published figures of rape, of sex trafficking, and of debauchery based on reports in five local newspapers: Koh Santepheap, Rasmei Kampuchea, Kampuchea Thmey, the Cambodia Daily, and the Phnom Penh Post-vp, where there were 322 cases of rape reported. The number increased by 16.77% compared to 2008, where there had been only 268 cases, and by 6.52% compared to 2007, where there had been 301 cases. The 332 cases victimized 337 persons, among whom 202 were underage girls and 2 were boys. Most of the victims were Khmers, but there were also Vietnamese, Cambodian Muslims, and Australians. It should be noted that gang rapes [when two or more men rape one girl] increased to 29 cases – in each case there were 2 to 7 perpetrators involved, and 5 victims were killed after they had been raped.
(translation via The Mirror)

Add in the notoriety of ‘bauk,’ the practice of gang rape that has become nauseatingly common in Cambodia, and some similarities become clear.  On the other hand, there are important differences: rape is illegal in Cambodia, and has harsh penalties, though enforcement is almost non-existent, especially for the poor; women currently compose approximately 85-90% of the garment industry’s working class (a polar reversal of the 16th century French examples), though the gendered resentment might have similar wellsprings.



Village Life is Feminine, But the Socius is Masculine – Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Seen from the village, life is feminine; one could even say that society is feminine–but it is precisely because it is only part of an encompassing whole from which meaning emanates, and this whole is masculine. If human were immortal, perhaps society could be confounded with the cosmos. Since death exists, it is necessary for society to be linked to something that is outside itself–and that it be linked socially to this exterior. Here is where men enter, charged with two functions that are their exclusive province: shamanism and warfare. In the interior of the socius, male authority can only be based on an association with women: the leader of an extended family controls daughters and gardens, feminine things he obtained through his married status. On the other hand, the power of magic and the force of the warrior exist ‘independently’ of women; they express a movement outwards from the socius, required because it is necessary to administer (in both senses of the term) death. Finally, negated or disguised in its own domain–the internal elaboration of the social fabric–affinity will be used to domesticate this founding bond, the bond with death and exteriority.

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, From the enemy’s point of view. Humanity and divinity in an Amazonian Society., 190-191


"Mourning is thus submissive self-assertion"

I’m reading in preparation for a presentation I’ll be making at the International Association of Buddhist Studies conference in Atlanta at the end of June. The presentation is on “Mourning and Memory in Contemporary Cambodian Buddhism.” I might post something of the presentation here when I’m finished (though I’ve promised to do so with the paper I presented at the recent AAS over a month ago and have yet to get around to that, so take with a shaker of salt). But in the meantime, and partly as a note to myself, here’s a lovely quote on mourning and gender from James Redfield, reviewing a book by Loring Danforth on The Death Rituals of Rural Greece:

Grief is a feeling; mourning is a performance of this feeling. It takes place before an audience and engrosses resources that would otherwise be at the disposal of the living. It seems that such behavior, and therefore such feelings, are encouraged more in some persons and communities than in others. This variation could be examined in terms of differential evaluations of the obligatory and the useful; and this, in turn, could lead to an examination of the utility of mourning. It seems that these women lay claim to a space where for a time their grief becomes the most important thing in the world – and at the same time they enact their utter dependence on the departed. Mourning is thus submissive self-assertion. (Redfield, James M. 1984. Review [untitled]: The death rituals of rural Greece by Loring M. Danforth. American Ethnologist, 11.3: 618.).


Nuns, Agriculture, Metaphors

Note to myself: the value connection between gender, agriculture, and ordination are made in the paradigmatic text of nun ordination: the story of Mahaprajapati begging the Buddha (first herself, then via Ananda) to allow for the ordination of women. The Buddha explains to Ananda what catastrophes will befall the sangha if women are allowed to enter:

At that time, the Venerable Ananda went to see the Lord. Having sat at one side, he said to the Lord, ”Lord, Mahaprajapati Gautami has accepted the Eight Heavy Duties. The aunt of the Lord has now been ordained.” The Lord said to Ananda, ”Ananda, if women had not renounced their household lives and ordained in the religion of the Tathagata, the holy life would have lasted long, the core teaching of Buddhism would have remained for a thousand years. Because the ordination of women has occurred in this religion of the Tathagata, the holy life will not last long; the True Dharma will last for only 500 years. Ananda, in whatever religion women are ordained, that religion will not last long. As families that have more women than men are easily destroyed by robbers, as a plentiful rice-field once infested by rice worms will not long remain, as a sugarcane field invaded by red rust will not long remain, even so the True Dharma will not last long. Ananda, as a man builds a large surrounding dike to prevent the flow of water, I prescribe the Eight Heavy Duties for the nuns to adhere to for the rest of their lives without fail. (Vin. II, 256) [emphasis mine]