Archaeology Dissertation on Iron Age Cambodia Available

It’s been out there for a while, but I’d be deeply remiss if I failed to draw your attention to Dr. Alison Carter’s (UW-Madison) dissertation. In the spirit of actual intellectual exchange (sometimes called ‘Open Access’), she’s placed her dissertation online for download.  

The dissertation is called “Trade, exchange, and socio-­political development in Iron Age (500 BC -­ AD 500) mainland Southeast Asia: An examination of stone and glass beads from Cambodia and Thailand,” and it’s available here for download in various formats.

Dr. Carter has been doing archaeological research in Cambodia for years, and focuses on Iron Age trade objects – specifically beads. Through the analysis of these beads, she’s able to hypothesize about the geographical origins of the beads (because of the materials out of which they are made). Through understanding the geographical origins, she illuminates early trade networks – both within and beyond the boundaries of mainland Southeast Asia. Her work is deeply important to scholarship on a region, the prehistory of which is difficult to know because of a lack of preserved written texts (excepting inscriptions in stone).

Go! Read!  And when you’re done, check out her great blog.

Association of Asian Studies

Well, here we are at the Association of Asian Studies (AAS) Annual Conference, in San Diego (famous residents include Buffy Summers, apparently), California.  In addition to the excellent looking panels and discussions this year, this is the last year I will serve as the Chair of the Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia Studies group (TLC).

Part of the TLC work is the annual invitation to a distinguished academic to speak to issues of broad significance to our members. This year, we have invited Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, former Rector of Thammasat University in Thailand, to speak (Dr. Kasetsiri’s personal web page, here). In line with our selected theme for the year – geographies of conflict (or to use a felicitous phrase from our sponsored panel which was unfortunately not accepted this year, “Cartographies of Violence.” Dr. Kasetsiri will be speaking tonight on the conflict over the Angkorian temple of Preah Vihear (Th: Phra Viharn), which has been an object of nationalist desire and mobilization by groups on both sides of the Cambodian-Thai border.

I’m also spending my first conference speaking to publishers, about my manuscript with the working title of “Deathpower in Cambodian Buddhism.” Everyone’s been quite nice,but for a junior scholar (yes, at nearly 40, with a Ph.D., a tenure-track job, and two children, I still consider myself a junior scholar) it’s damn-near heart-attack-inducing.  Luckily those new AED machines are all over the place. :)

This post marks my intention to return to blogging on a slow, but slightly more frequent pace. In future weeks, I should have a few short pieces including discussions about the ideas in my manuscript, my attendance and studies of Samdech Euv (King-Father) Norodom Sihanouk‘s cremation rituals, which I was fortunate to attend, thanks in large part to a generous travel and research grant from my home institution.

Read: “Anthropology and community in Cambodia.”

Marston, John, ed. 2011. Anthropology and community in Cambodia: reflections on the work of May Ebihara. Caulfield (AUS): Monash University Press.

It’s rare enough for new academic texts on Cambodia to be published that each publication feels something like an event.  John Marston‘s latest edited volume doesn’t fail that test.  Marston, previously co-edited a volume of collected essays titled “History, Buddhism, and new religious movements in Cambodia,” along with Elizabeth Guthrie.  This new volume follows another recent festschrift in honor of David Chandler. The festschrifts come fast and furious recently, which is both gratifying and nerve-wracking, since the arrival of festschrifts usually implies the transfer to field or disciplinary authority to a new generation.  John is of that next generation, and along with his peers – my elders – reassures the reader that they will be able to continue moving the field forward.

May Ebihara was an astonishing person in many many ways.  I won’t ruin the experience of getting to know her from the book, which open with a lovely essay on Ebihara by David Chandler, and closes with a transcript of an interview between Marston and Ebihara.  I had the honor of meeting her in person just once, and prior to meeting her Chandler told me, with the sort of grave seriousness that meant I both should and should not take his pronouncements too seriously, that there “are two things you need to know about May. First: she’s a very little women. Second: she’s really not.”  David was right.  May was a woman of astonishing short physical stature.  But she took up a lot of room.  Not in a boorish or dominating way, but rather through her humor, her openness to conversation with anyone – even lowly graduates who stumbled onto a dinner far above their station – and her intelligence, which was both broad and deep.

As the only American anthropologist to have conducted a field ethnography prior to the Khmer Rouge period, her work holds an enormous amount of value for all of us in the field. Her dissertation Svay continues to be a foundational source of understanding about Cambodian peasant life. The best advice I ever received when writing my own dissertation was that “dissertations were meant to be bound on all four sides.” This remains completely untrue of Ebihara’s great dissertation.

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Sounding Cambodia on July 8th 2011

Howdy, readers.  I’ve been in the great Cascade Mountains of Washington State, and far from the internet.  But I’m back now, working on my manuscript (yes, really), and trying to keep households and students from imploding (sort of).  While I was gone, a lot of important things happened.  Here are some of them!

Over at Slate magazine, Ken Silverstein does an excellent job skewering the self-serving culture of the NGO elites who rule Cambodian in tandem (and not a friendly one) with the CPP.  It won’t be news to anyone who’s ever lived in the ‘Bodge, but it’s a good refresher.  Go read.

Meanwhile, the Closing Order from the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC, aka the Khmer Rouge Tribunal) has been released, and the media are starting to talk about Brother Number Two, Nuon Chea, again. Here’s an article in the Guardian from the  redoubtable Thet Sambath, the Cambodian journalist responsible for the most important film on the Khmer Rouge made, Enemies of the People.  Enemies of the People is available on DVD now – buy it, watch it. Learn.  As a different article said, it’s like watching a documentary on the Nazi Genocides narrated by the bad guys.

Also, there was a fascinating, important election in Thailand, which could have enormous implications (hopefully and likely positive ones) for Cambodia.  We’ll see, but the upshot is that Thailand just elected its first female Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and the army has indicated that it will respect the results.

Also, important economic news out of Cambodia.  Rice exports quadrupled, which is good for business, but should make Cambodian nationals nervous, since food security is getter worse every year. Cambodia experienced a 6.5% rise in food prices over the last year. Food security analysts point out that other countries have experienced 20% rises, and call that stable.  Tell that to the peasants. If they’re interested in eating meat, prices are at least double the rise of general food increases:

In the first six months of 2011, beef has increased some 12.07 percent to 26,000 riel a kilogramme, smoked fish has seen a 22.63 percent increase to 16,800 riel, and pork has climbed 25.37 percent to 21,800 riel on Phnom Penh markets, the Commerce Ministry’s daily report on Friday showed.

As for the manufacturing sector, the Garment Manufacturer’s Association of Cambodia (GMAC) predicts a thirty percent rise in exports this year, while the anti-union draft law is receiving unified opposition from the unions.  Meanwhile, primitive accumulation proceeds apace, with the cruelty in evidence, for example, in the repeated destruction of the shelters of already-evicted villagers from the notorious Dey Krahom collective.

Sounding Cambodia for June 6 2011

The end of the semester got away from me folks, which means that today’s Sounding Cambodia will consist of a lot of links, videos, and topics, with minimal commentary. Lots of important stuff in there, though.  Go read!

  • Sand mountains during Khmer New Year (Video)
  • Cash pledges from politicians – exactly what is going on?
  • Violence against Cambodian Labor by the government
  • Interviews with Rich Garella of Who Killed Chea Vichea?
  • Nuon Chea and Cases 002 and 003 in the Extraordinary Chambers/Khmer Rouge Tribunal
  • Would you like some Borax with your Cambodian food?  Formalin? You’re welcome.
  • Tiny Toones NGO – “Hey Babe” video.
  • Cambodian Rice Exports to the Philippines
  • Judy Ledgerwood’s awesome Summer ethnography school in Cambodia
  • Damned Dams and their impacts on damned-near everything; an article in Critical Asian Studies by Ian Baird
  • Book Review of Constance Wilson’s edited volume on the Middle Mekong River Basin
  • Thai Politics – an election primer from Duncan McCargo
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Sounding on Cambodia for April 28, 2011

Well, between my visit to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, campus, the screening of Who Killed Chea Vichea? on my campus, and the end of the semester looming, my attempt at disciplined, scheduled, blogging, has already collapsed. Instead of getting upset about that, I’ll just return to the attempt soon. In the meantime, there are big stories in Cambodia that need to be addressed.

  • Dry-Season Warfare at the Cambodian-Thai Border
  • Lao appears to begin construction of potential “Mekong Killer” dam
  • Hun Sen Denies Lung Cancer Rumors
  • “Who Killed Chea Vichea?” screens at Macalester College
  • ‘Bamboo Hypothesis’ gets a bit more complicated

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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