Living amidst explosive remnants of war: Local perceptions and responses to risk in Cambodia and Laos – a seminar by Dr Krisna UK (Wed, 25 September 2013)

Speaker: Dr Krisna UK (Director, Center for Khmer Studies)
Date: Wednesday, 25 September 2013
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)
Chairperson & Discussant: Assoc Prof John N. Miksic

In many ethnic minority villages in Cambodia and Laos, which have once been the theatre of violent conflicts, villagers living along the Ho Chi Minh trail have adjusted to the impacts of thirty years of conflicts that have destroyed their man-made and natural environment. In the course of the Americans’ intense bombardment of the region from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, more than three million tons of bombs were dropped on both Cambodia and Lao PDR, which have killed and endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Consequently rural families have had to resume their lives in an environment littered with bombs and cluster ammunitions. However since the end of the conflicts these weapons have also offered local communities a new means of sustaining themselves.

In studying the local knowledge, understanding and attitudes towards risk, this presentation investigates how local creative strategies are at work in domesticating a hostile physical environment. As they are transformed into commodities, alternative forms of currency or objects used in rituals, people attribute new meanings to leftover armaments and continually create new beliefs from their encounter with the dangerous ‘objects’.

About the speaker
Dr. Krisna UK, Director of the Center for Khmer Studies, is a distinguished international scholar, who did her PhD in Social Anthropology at Cambridge University and holds Masters degrees from the University of Oxford and the University of Paris-Sorbonne. Her previous scholarly work has focused on comparative literature and environmental sciences. Her dissertation in social anthropology was on the Cambodian minority Jarai people. Her experience in NGO management includes five years with the Cambodia Trust as well as five years of development work in humanitarian demining, which includes research on the impact of landmine contamination on Southeast Asian communities living in high risk areas.