Sounding Cambodia on August 2, 2011

  • 8-year-old dies after explosion at cremation in Cambodia
  • Alison In Cambodia blogs summer fieldwork
  • Baphuon Reconstruction Completed!
  • Pansukula for Chea Vichea in France
  • Professor Sorpong Peou discovers his father is alive, ater 35 years.
more after the jump…

Sounding on Cambodia, April 11, 2011

I’ve started a new practice here on Imagining the Real World.  I’ve always used the “Sounding” tag to indicate a group of links to other internet-materials that are associated with each other by a particular subject matter: Cambodia, Buddhism, The Academy, Religious Studies, etc., etc.

However, starting today, I’m going to assign specific days of the week to specific topics.  While some will come and go for the current period, Mondays will be my chance to Sound Off on links related to Cambodian Topics, Wednesday will look at Buddhism, and Friday will look at Religious Studies.

So, what’s on tap for the first thusly-organized Sounding on Cambodia?: Khmer Martial Arts (Bradal Serey), Expats and Global Apartheid, the online publication of sections of the Astrological Yearbook for the Khmer New Year (comin’ up, comin’ up!), a new website on Khmer Manuscripts (huzzah!), Border conflict with Thailand, Draft Laws on NGOs and Unions, and the implosion of the Sam Rainsy Party.

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Comment: “Yuon.”

There have been ugly and largely irrelevant conversations in the press and blogosphere on the Khmer word “yuon.” យួន.  Only two major arguments are advanced. Both are incomplete and largely incorrect.

On the one side, some Vietnamese (though rarely, in my experience, ethnic Vietnamese with much experience in Cambodia) find the term terribly offensive and claim it must always be considered an intended linguistic assault on their person or ethnicity. This is more frequently raised by ethnic non-Vietnamese from a “Western” background.

On the other side, Khmer nationalists line up to defend the term as ‘non-racist, because its linguistic inheritance (variably derived from either “yavana” (Sanskrit: Newcomer) or “Yueh-*” (Southern Chinese term for Vietnamese).  Because Yuon can be derived from a term which is arguably non-racist in origin, it cannot be racist in use.

Bollocks: a term can be ‘innocent’ in conception and ‘racist’ in use, as terms are all the time.  Usage and context is always at stake.  Yuon is “sometimes” racist, and “sometimes” not.  My favorite example on this front is the wonderful meal:

This is politely referred to as “Sour Yuon Soup,” and rudely referred to as “Our Friend’s Soup”

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