Documents on Khmer Culture and History

Interviews on History and Legends

Preah Ko / Preah Kaew

Here's a video of a Phnom Penh fortune teller recounting the legend of Preah Ko / Preah Kaew, an important quasi-historical myth important to most Cambodians. In this eloquent and poetic 40 minute rendering of the tale, the woman touches on all of the themes which make this legend so special: its explanation of Thai prosperity and development vs. Khmer poverty and backwardness, greed and short-sightedness leading to loss of resources, and others.

Oral Presentations on Khmer Culture

A Talk on the Chams in Cambodia and Khmer Islam

At SEASSI 2007 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we in the Khmer language program were fortunate to have Ms. Farina So, a Cambodian researcher and Cham community leader, speak to our class on the history of the Chams in Cambodia and some of their religious practices and beliefs. This talk was given in June, 2007, during Week Two of SEASSI, to the Intermediate and Advanced Khmer classes. The video is about one hour long.

Scholarly Articles on Khmer Culture and History

An Article on Khmer Peasant Refugee Explanations of the Khmer Rouge

I wrote this paper in the late 1980s, while finishing up my Bachelor's degree at the University of Wisconsin. It was published by the UW-Madison Center for Southeast Asian Studies as part of their "Wisconsin Papers on Southeast Asia" series in 1989. The paper is based on ethnographic research with Khmer refugees in the US, which grew out of my senior honors thesis research on Khmer peasant refugee lifeways, supplemented by some archival research as well.

  • Read Interpretive Accounts of the Khmer Rouge Years: Personal Experience in Cambodian Peasant World View by Frank Smith

    A Dissertation on the Foundations of Modern Art Education in Cambodia

    This is Ingrid Muan's groundbreaking 2001 Art History dissertation on French attitudes toward "traditional" Khmer art and how the introduction of modern art concepts were tightly controlled in Cambodia when the University of Fine Arts was founded there in the early 20th Century. Ingrid's work covers much more ground than her main topic suggests, however, getting into the shaping of Khmer identity and education right up untilt he present day, and the objectification of "the traditional".

  • Read Citing Angkor: The Cambodian Arts in the Age of Restoration by Ingrid Muan

    Documents on Surin Khmer Culture

    A Concert Performance of Traditional Kantreum Music by Nam Pheung Muang Surin

    Kantreum is a traditional form of Khmer music not found in Cambodia, but related to various ritual music forms used to conjure spirits in Cambodia. There are two main types of Kantreum popular today: traditional and "modern," the modern showing quite a bit of influence from Northeast Thailand Lao Molam Sing music: scantily-clad dancers, electric organs and electric Phin (a plucked string instrument similar to a guitar) in addition to traditional instruments.

    Both the modern and traditional forms of Kantreum share fairly long songs (over 10 minutes), hypnotic, often "funky" rhythms and a specific type of haunting, ritualistic melody. Nam Pheung Muang Surin is an expert practitioner of both traditional and modern forms, but she's particularly known for traditional Kantreum. Below you'll find links to videos of songs from a concert she performed in Surin's provincial capital in late August, 2007, accompanied by her young students. Be sure to catch the Extreme Khmer episode on Nam Pheung was well.


    Interviews with Contemporary Khmer Artists

    Interview with Linda Saphan

    Linda Saphan is a Khmer artist who grew up in Canada and received her PhD in France. Below is a link to the full, unedited interview I did with her in October, 2007 at an art opening in Phnom Penh. Be sure to catch the double Extreme Khmer episode on contemporary artists in Cambodia. Those episodes contain excerpts from this interview plus much more. Also check out Linda's website for more info on her work and the young artist organizations she supports in Cambodia.

    Interview with Vandy Rattana

    Vandy Rattana is a Khmer artist who is also the president of the artists' group Steaw Selapak or "Art Rebels." Below is a link to the full, unedited interview I did with him in October, 2007 when I videotaped a workshop that Steaw Selapak had with a Belgian photographer. Be sure to catch the double Extreme Khmer episode referred to above for more on Steaw Selapak. You can find more info on the group and on Rattana here.

    Interview with Chhin Taingchhea

    Chhin Taingchhea is a Khmer mixed-media artist who is also a member of Steaw Selapak. Below is a link to the full, unedited interview I did with him in October, 2007 at an art opening of his work and others' work, including Linda Saphan (see above). Be sure to catch the double Extreme Khmer episode referred to above for more on Steaw Selapak, and to see better images of Chhea's installation, which he talks about in the interview. Go here for more biographical info on Chhea.


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