Traces and Memories of the Cambodian Genocide: Tuol Sleng in testimony, literature, and media representations

Stephanie Benzaquen Announcement
Subject Fields
Archival Science, Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Film and Film History, Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, Southeast Asian History / Studies

Proposed semimar, annual meeting of the American Literature Comparative Association (ACLA), University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, July 6-9, 2017

Over the years the former Khmer Rouge prison Tuol Sleng (also known as S-21) has become a well-known 'lieu de memoire' of the Cambodian Genocide. Turned into museum in the immediate aftermath of the Pol Pot's regime, it is now one of the most visited spots in Phnom Penh, featuring in books, movies, public exhibitions, blogs, works of art, printed and electronic media. Biographical, academic, journalistic, judicial and artistic accounts create a multifaceted perspective on the place. The seminar seeks to explore such a diversity of views and on this basis reconstruct to some extent the forty year-long history of Tuol Sleng as major landmark in the Cambodian traumascape. We propose to look at different registers and mediums of expression and examine how these articulate emotional, moral, and political demands. We also intend to investigate the transformation of narratives in and around Tuol Sleng in the context of transition into the postcolonial and the post-Cold War era. We are interested in discussing how this affects the historical function of S-21/Tuol Sleng, what aspects are excluded or left untouched in the process, and finally how the museum shapes the understanding and remembrance of the Cambodian Genocide. Possible topics include: the role of Tuol Sleng in memory politics in Cambodia since 1979; the transnational construction of S-21 archives; Tuol Sleng and the trial of Duch at the ECCC; eyewitnesses past and present; the museum as pedagogical, experiential, and performative tool; Tuol Sleng in movies, artworks, and social media; dark tourism and memory industry. 

Seminar organizers:

Stephanie Benzaquen (Erasmus University Rotterdam):

Vicente Sanchez-Biosca (Universitat de Valencia):

Those interested are encouraged to contact the seminar organizers before submitting their abstract through the ACLA's online submission portal. Papers due September 23, 2016. 

Contact Information

Stephanie Benzaquen (Erasmus University Rotterdam)


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