This article explores how Franco-Cambodian cartoonist Tian’s graphic novel, L’année du lièvre [Year of the Rabbit], represents second-generation postmemory in the form of, what I call, a “Cambodian family album,” or a personal-collective archive. The album serves to convey to subsequent generations: 1) the history of the Cambodian genocide, 2) the collective memories of pre-1975 Cambodia preceding the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh, and 3) the Cambodian humanitarian crisis and exodus of the 1970s-1990s. The conceptualization of the family album is derived from the literal translation, from Khmer into English, of the term “photo album” – “book designated for sticking pictures.” The translation of the term emphasizes the fragmentary and creative nature of postmemory, or the second-generation’s experience of their parents’ trauma. This article begins with an analysis of L’année du lièvre as family album and moves beyond the comics medium to show how Cambodian identity is being reshaped and renegotiated through 1.5- and second-generation Cambodian genocide survivors’ contributions to film, dance, and the literary-arts.
Image: Tian/Editions Gallimard