Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia

4 February 2015

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Cambodia has undergone a rapid transformation in the years since the UNTAC mission of the early 1990s, and it seems necessary to take stock and explore the dimensions of these significant shifts in a country now garnering global media attention. From the violence of its (still) disputed 2013 elections, the protests of garment workers calling for higher pay on the global assembly line, to the widespread reality of forced evictions attracting international condemnation, it is an apposite time for an essential guide to examine these and other injustices which mark out the contemporary landscape of Cambodia. Together with Simon Springer I am doing just this – editing the Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia – to offer readers a comprehensive overview and understanding of the current situation. The Handbook will be published by Routledge in 2016.

Aiming towards this goal, we are working with 40 contributors (see below) to cover wide-ranging issues concerning Cambodia’s political-economic tensions, rural developments, urban conflicts, social processes and cultural currents. With scholars based at institutions spread across the globe, the Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia provides a thorough examination of how contemporary Cambodia is understood by social scientists working from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. Our goal is to advance the established and emergent debates in a field of study that has changed rapidly in the past ten years. In short, the Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia will intervene by both outlining how understandings of sociocultural and political economic processes in Cambodia have evolved and by exploring new research agendas that we hope will inform policy making and activism. By presenting a comprehensive examination of the field, this edited volume will serve as an invaluable resource for undergraduates, grad students, and professional scholars alike. We envision the book as both a teaching guide and a reference for Asian studies scholars, human geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and critical economists.

Here is a taster of what is to come:


Geopolitics – Sok Udom Deth
Politics of Aid – Sophal Ear
Law and Human Rights – Catherine Morris
Tribunal – Rachel Hughes & Maria Elander
Civil Society – Louise Coventry
Microfinancing – Maryann Bylander
Land Titles & Property Relations – Robin Biddulph
Journalism – Sebastian Strangio


Rural Livelihoods – Melissa Marschke
Sustainability – Sokphea Young
Agricultural Sector – Kung Phoak
Natural Resource Governance – Sarah Milne
Water Management – Joakim Öjendal & Ros Bandeth
Indigenous Peoples – Jonathan Padwe
Environmental Risk – Laurie Parsons
Land Concessions – Jean-Christophe Diepart & Laura Schoenberger


Mega-projects & City Planning – Tom Percival
Labour Rights and Unions – Dennis Arnold
Urban Migration – Sabina Lawreniuk
Real Estate – Gabriel Fauveaud
Forced Relocation – Jessie Connell
Homelessness – Simon Springer
Security – James Sidaway
Street Vendors – Kyoko Kusakabe


Education – William Brehm
Health – Jan Ovesen and Ing-Britt Trankell
Violence Against Women - Katherine Brickell
Women’s Participation – Mona Lilja & Mikael Baaz
Sexuality – Heidi Hoefinger, Pisey Ly & Srun Srorn
Children and youth – Melina T. Czymoniewicz-Klippel
Households and Family Processes – Patrick Heuveline
Tourism – Richard Sharpley and Peter McGrath


Identity and Citizenship – Alvin Lim
Memory and Violence – Savina Sirik and James Tyner
Religion and Morality - Alexandra Kent
Spirits and Sorcery – Courtney Work
Heritage - Jo Gillespie
Voluntourism - Tess Guiney
The Visual Arts – Joanna Wolfarth
Music – Catherine Grant

Geographies of Forced Eviction: Dispossession, Violence, Insecurity

5 August 2014

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Forced eviction, claims UN-Habitat, is a “global phenomenon” and “global crisis”. Figures published by the agency indicate that during the 2000s at least 15 million people globally were forcibly evicted. According to Amnesty International forced evictions are “when people are forced out of their homes and off their land against their will, with little notice or none at all, often with the threat or use of violence”. Today, forced evictions in the name of ‘progress’ are attracting attention as growing numbers of people in the Global South are ejected and dispossessed from their homes, often through intimidation, coercion and the use of violence. At the same time, we have also witnessed the intensification of a ‘crisis’ urbanism in the Global North characterised by new forms of social inequality, heightened housing insecurity and violent displacement. These developments have led to an explosion of forced evictions supported by new economic, political and legal mechanisms.

It is against this background that the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) conference (August 27-29th 2014) will feature two sessions I have co-organised with Melissa Fernández Arrigoitia and Alex Vasudevan on ‘Geographies of Forced Eviction: Dispossession, Violence, Insecurity’.

More details about the presentations being given can be found here and here. They include my own paper which will be presented on ‘Lotus-wielding activism against forced eviction in Cambodia: Gendered dynamics of the Boeung Kak Lake case’. Garnering both national and international attention, Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) is the most high profile case of forced eviction in Cambodia. In February 2007, 133 hectares of the lake and surrounding area were leased for 99 years from the Municipality of Phnom Penh to a Chinese-backed private development company. In contravention of the country’s 2001 Land Law, the company proceeded to forcibly evict thousands of families and in August 2008 began filling the lake sand destroying further homes. Still more remain under threat. Through in-depth (repeat) interviews with men and women from BKL between 2013-2014 I will explore gendered perspectives on, and experiences of, forced eviction and its contestation. My presentation charts how women have become lotus-wielding activists at the forefront of community protest and foregrounds the gendered dynamics that have emerged within private and public spaces of the city. Its analysis departs from a forthcoming paper in Annals of the Association of American Geographers entitled: ‘The Whole World Is Watching’: Intimate Geopolitics of Forced Eviction and Women’s Activism in Cambodia.

In connection to the two RGS-IBG sessions, Melissa and Alex have also organised a related film screening of Rent Rebels at the Goethe Institut, London on August 28th. This new documentary by Gertrud Schulte Westenberg and Matthias Coers is a kaleidoscope of the tenants’ struggles in Berlin against their displacement out of their neighbourhood communities. All welcome! Further info here.

Based on the sessions, we have also organised a jointly edited book (by the same name). It represents the first collection of international academic research on contemporary forced evictions. In bringing together accounts from across urban Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, it will breach a significant geographic and conceptual divide that has tended to frame forced evictions either as an overwhelmingly Global South phenomenon, or as an experience more common to the rural, landless poor. The chapters will move away from such geographically-restricted and partial understandings of forced evictions to consider the distinct urban logics of precarious housing or involuntary displacements that stretch across cities like London, Accra and Rio de Janeiro to Colombo, Shanghai and Madrid.

For more information on any of the above, please get in touch.

New research report on domestic violence law in Cambodia

19 January 2014

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New preliminary research report available for download here.

Based on two years of ESRC/DFID funded research in collaboration with the NGO Gender and Development/Cambodia and Dr Bunnak Poch, the report deepens understanding of why investments in domestic violence law are faltering and what action can be taken.

It is envisaged that the report will inform the country’s 2nd National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women (NAPVAW) 2013–2017 led by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and will help address concerns raised by the CEDAW 2013 Committee examination of Cambodia which found ‘limited progress in the prevention and elimination of violence against women’.

Feedback and other (media) enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Katherine via the contact details on the front-page of this site.

To date the report’s findings have features in the Cambodian national press in The Phnom Penh Post and Cambodia Daily.

I will be speaking at the Center for Khmer Studies in Phnom Penh on February 3rd. Please see the flyer for further information.

Thanks to Bison Bison for the design of the report.