‘Rebirthing’ the Violent Past: Friction Between Post-Conflict Axioms of Remembrance and Cambodian Buddhist Forgetting

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Problematising the vernacularisation of key mechanisms in post-conflict Human Rights (HR) regimes, ethnographic interviews with Cambodian interlocutors present resistance to victim-perpetrator outreach and reconciliation, truth telling, and memorialisation. Resistance stems from the incommensurability between Buddhist present and future-focused perspectives and Euro Western (EW) past-focused memory work so central to the above mechanisms of post-conflict reconciliation. The vernacularisation of EW memory work is not only perceived as culturally incongruent, but appears to threaten a resurgence of genocide-related distress and strife that the HR regime hoped to assuage. Rather than calling for improved cultural competency of vernacularised memory work, accounts disclose the incommensurability of the taken for granted core EW mnemonic axiom (and scenario) that retrieval of the painful past and its public representation may somehow promote healing, rehabilitation and future conflict prevention. As common denominator embedded within multiple mechanisms of the HR model of conflict prevention, this axiom will be epistemically and historically contextualised in HR discourse on memorialisation. Implications will be considered for the future of globalised practices of memorialisation, conflict prevention and the HR regime sustaining axiomatic violence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-311
Number of pages21
JournalAnthropological Forum
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The University of Western Australia.


  • Cambodia
  • Memorialisation
  • cultural competency
  • genocide
  • human rights regime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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