Richard Rechtman (1/2): “Cambodian refugees overwhelmed by their dead”

Richard Rechtman, Part 1 of an interview with whom is published in today’s Ka-Set, seems like a fascinating guy, one with whom I could endless discussions and productive disagreements. Foreigners often say that the “dead haunt Cambodians,” but they then often take this far too literally, as if it necessarily means that Cambodians experience their trauma as hauntings by the dead. Rechtman implies that his perspective on the matter is significantly different from this (thank god!) without dismissing the idea that Cambodians continue to experience real, ongoing trauma from the Khmer Rouge era. Note that his one concrete examples deals with a sort of refusal of (or to socialize) memory rather than its incorporation or experience. He also has an interesting sounding book coming out this year which claims to critique the discourse of trauma, something which desperately needs to be done, and which I have attempted to do several times in the past few years. Can’t wait for part two…

Richard Rechtman © John Vink / Magnum

Phnom Penh (Cambodia) February 5th 2009: Richard Rechtman, psychiatrist, and Soko Phay Vakalis at the Bophana Center workshop for visual artists.

Richard Rechtman never imagined he would be spending so much time working with Cambodian refugees living in France. The psychiatrist, who also happens to be an anthropologist, is medical director of the Institut Marcel Rivière, a researcher Continue reading