Heritage and the Politics of Culture
What is Phnom Penh? Is it the same capital as the one before 1975? Cambodia has just started to look at the scars of its past, especially the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979) which resulted to a death toll of about 1,5 to 2 millions of victims and a country devastated.
After the fall of the regime in 1979, Phnom Penh progressively recovers life and dynamism but it still ignores its past as most of the former inhabitants never return to their homes. In the last two decades, the capital of Cambodia is under accelerated transformation where new buildings and skyscrapers spring up in the center of the town in the midst of indifference. Just as the Khmer Rouge sought to erase the previous spatial practices, the new government is not inclined to unearth the past as some of them are former Khmer Rouge cadres. In the same time, material traces that testify the presence of its former inhabitants are slowly disappearing. That sites, places bear habitus of people, of communities that built and developed the city.
This paper intends to give life to these places through narratives of survivals shaped by their own destinies whether they are inside or outside the country. The first step of my research will focus on the Khmer area which has seen a major transformation in the last decade. It aims to inscribe this community in concrete and physical sites such as cemeteries, Buddhist monasteries, schools, etc. though personal memories.