Jeremy Soh Humanities and Social Science
Violence, Landscapes of Mourning, and the Technologies of Memory and Witnessing
In my ethnography I explore the question of justice and memory in the aftermath of mass atrocities in Cambodia. For Cambodians, who have had to engage in a daily process of reckoning with the memory of (social) death, re-making a world has necessarily involved a delicate reweaving of kinships torn asunder by the violent alterations of life. I wish to look more carefully at these everyday practices of living as practices of bearing witness. With the anticipated commencement of the Khmer Rouge Tribunals, I seek to interrogate the role of transitional justice institutions in bringing justice and reconciliation for the memory of mass violence, torture, and social trauma, through an exploration of how justice is imagined and enacted in the everyday: how extant quotidian forms of witnessing-practices, existing alongside and despite a juridical anamnesis, form a disjuncture with its legal witnessing ethic, as well as its concomitant modern western notions of subjectivity, life, and traumatic memory. I propose that to take seriously other traditions of justice and/or healing is to undertake an analysis that does not simply account for “culture” in an otherwise stable epistemological referent of “justice”, but rather to write from within the tradition itself, from within the disparate understandings of the self, (the limits of) life and reconciliation, that thus allow for a different understanding of what it means to build life from within the very space of terror and violence.