Focused on the experience and legacies of the Khmer Rouge marriage policy, this essay examines Cambodia’s culture of silence surrounding gender-based violence in the era of #MeToo and highlights a set of cultural responses that confront silence, countering it with a multifaceted mode of expression that aims to unite survivors across communities, generations, and experiences. Spanning a range of media, including documentary cinema, the plastic arts, and classical Khmer dance, the “language” emerging in these responses is at once restrained and excessive, naming the experience of assault in the public sphere without creating an imperative to speak publicly. More importantly, it offers a multimedial, polyvocal means through which survivors of gender-based violence see their traumas recognized and shared by the broader collective. These initiatives offer a culturally situated, restorative approach to addressing gender-based violence, past and present, that stands in productive contrast with the largely retributive #MeToo movement.
Read the article: Leslie Barnes, “Reckoning with Forced Marriage in the Era of #MeToo: Silence and Gender-based Violence in the Cambodian Arts”.
Image: San Nan, Woman and Memories; Photograph, Van Channarong/Bophana Center