How far did post-UNTAC Cambodia exemplified an expanded Habermasian public sphere? What happened when a range of aid agencies, private donors, activists and academics showed up with all sorts of competing agendas for educational and cultural projects? In conversation with Duncan McCargo, former Center for Khmer Studies director Philippe Peycam discusses his book reflecting on Cambodia’s first decade following the new millennium, and explains (inter alia) why he has so much admiration for librarians and publishers.  

Cultural Renewal in Cambodia: Academic Activism in the Neoliberal Era (Brill and ISEAS, 2020) narrates the establishment of a cultural project in post-war Cambodia. It depicts a country at the crossroads of conflicting imaginaries, and shows through the story of the first decade of the Center for Khmer Studies how the neoliberal agenda of ‘northern’ academic institutions effectively constrained alternative ‘southern’ visions of development.

Philippe Peycam is the director of the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden. He served as director of the Center for Khmer Studies from 1999 to 2009; https://www.iias.asia/profile/…

Duncan McCargo is director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, and a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen.

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