This blog and it’s changes

gate gate paragate parasamgate, bodhi svaha!

(gone, gone, really gone, truly really gone, hail wisdom!)

Well, not actually gone. But in keeping with the obvious observation that everything changes, and given that I’ve returned to blogging here on a slightly more regular basis, I thought I would take a moment to note some of the changes.

I started this blog way back in 2004, if memory serves, not even on wordpress. I learned HTML and hard-coded everything using a now disappeared java-based app to write up ongoing reflections, unsorted thoughts, and links to interesting things from my fieldwork in Cambodia (2003-2006). Later on, I switched over to this wordpress format, which I continue to find relatively congenial, but as my writing focus shifted more toward scholarly publication and the end of fieldwork, the blog became more of a place for sharing news stories about Cambodia, while retaining the occasional beginnings of thought, unfinished reflections, etc. I also managed a separate blog to update family back in the USA about my growing family, since we turned from two to four during fieldwork, and this was before Facebook!

I now use Twitter for news broadcasting. If that’s your thing, you can find me there at @erikwdavis . The same warning that I include on this blog applies to my twitter account:

I have a job! In that job, I teach some of the same subjects I discuss on this blog! But this page doesn’t represent my employer’s positions, or my manner as a teacher. They haven’t reached out to endorse this page, and I haven’t asked for it.

An additional caveat applies to my @twitter account: I often share news and opinions there that are far from my scholarly fields of expertise, and have more to do with elements of my personal life and interest, such as the multi-faceted and crucial struggles of feminism and gender equality – including trans equality, unions, and neurodiversity. Sometimes these will overlap with Cambodia – most especially in regards to feminism and unions, but very often they will not. Even better than following me, just add #Cambodia to your saved search list in the Twitter app. I do not use nor encourage Facebook, though I’m aware of its astonishing popularity in Cambodia; with no apologies to its founders, I find it a bit of a cesspool, encouraging the worst behavior. At least on twitter, there’s no expectation that you’re speaking only to your friends and people who already know you.

I have a book, with the working title “Deathpower: Imagining Religion in Contemporary Cambodia,” under contract and review with an academic press. I’ll be promoting it shamelessly once the process has moved further along, but I’m hopeful that it will not only be received and read by a wide variety of people, ranging from professional and amateur academics, to English-reading Cambodians, to the merely curious. Parts of it are intentionally provocative, and I sincerely hope to provoke debates and conversations that can move our collective knowledges forward. I don’t know everything, and consider true scholarship a process of conversation and collective knowledge-building. I hope that my book and my articles can provoke knowledge better than they themselves represent.

One quick note: Udaya, the trilingual academic journal on Cambodian studies cofounded by Ang Choulean and Ashley Thompson, has made the leap to Open Access online, as has the Khmer sister publication, Khmer Renaissance!. I cannot recommend these enough. Please go check them out.

And with that, I’ll leave you with my favorite Cambodian video of the last couple of weeks, a cover of Pharrell WIlliams’ “Happy” performed by folks associated with Epic Arts Cambodia in Kampot.


Notice: Southeast Asia Digital Library Videos!

An email on the Thai/Laos/Cambodia Studies Group mailing list alerted me to this amazing new archive from Northern Illinois University (NIU): The “Living Memory of the Khmer” video interview project. This will be of enormous value to a great number of people: historians, researchers, linguists, and anthropologists, of course, but also to students of the Khmer language, who can use these videos to get a sense of the way people actually speak.

Just fantastic; make sure to also check out the photo archives, such as Cambodian Then and Now.

SEADL Repository | Southeast Asia Digital Library.


Ill Doctrine on Haiti

Man I love Jay Smooth. He also quotes from Wordsworth’s stunning poem to the great Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture (referenced in the video above). I’m going to quote the whole poem:


TOUSSAINT, the most unhappy of men! 1
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon’s earless den; –
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There’s not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.


BBC Documentary: Tales From The Jungle: Malinowski

I am always on the lookout, nowadays, for good teaching materials on the internet, especially good documentaries. Here are all six parts of the BBC4 Documentary, “Tales From The Jungle: Malinowski.” A tidy little piece lasting roughly one hour, it covers the importance of Bronislaw Malinowski, ranging from his methods (participant observation) to his investigations on Baloma and Kula exchange. His diaries range throughout the story, coloring his accomplishments and adding nuance.

The video was criticized on technical grounds (and perhaps, but vaguely, on more substantive matters) over at Savage Minds, and the comments there are worth a gander.

Videos embedded after the jump… Continue reading


Short Film on Hmong Refugee Experience: Experience & Memory

A lovely short film by Kao Kalia Yang, writer, and John O’Brien, filmmaker. Kao, a Hmong refugee immigrant to the United States. She reflects specifically on the limits of experience and memory, place, and home. Is her homeland Laos, or the refugee camp where she was born? Or the place where she lives now?

Truly lovely. I hope to hear more from both of them, now that I’m slowly getting settled in the Twin Cities.

The Place Where We Were Born from John OBRIEN on Vimeo.