Annotated by
Narawan Kyo Pathomvat

Traces of Trauma: Cambodian Visual Culture and NationalIdentity in the Aftermath of Genocide


Boreth Ly


University of Hawaii Press



The ‘traces of trauma’ in the book title signify the different ways in which Cambodian artists and cultural producers have created traces, i.e. through art and visual culture – which include contemporary art, film, poetry, pop music and court dance – after the traumatic events of the civil war, the US bombing and the Khmer Rouge genocide. In contrast to the use of art by the Khmer Rouge regime as a propagandistic and surveilling tool, artists reclaim art as a way to understand and mediate trauma, memory, morality, resistance and recuperation. Boreth Ly attempts to consider ‘epistemological ways of understanding trauma, visuality and body’ through works of Cambodian and Cambodian diasporic artists and thinkers – from the films of Rithy Panh and the photography of Vandy Rattana, to the poetry of Saith Peou and the writings of Khmer psychiatrist Chhim Sotheara. NKP

"In the case of Cambodia, arts and visual culture cannot provide complete redemption or psychological closure after genocide, but they can certainly help to open up a forum for an extremely difficult dialogue about issues of trauma, betrayal, conflict, reconciliation, forgiveness, and aporia."