Lindsay French

Lindsay French,  Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).

Lindsay’s research focuses on post-Pol Pot Cambodia and the process of social and cultural reconstruction in the aftermath of genocide. She has worked with Cambodian refugees in the US and Thailand, and re-patriated refugees as well as those who never fled the country in Cambodia itself, since 1986. She is especially interested in families divided by war, displacement and migration, and the efforts to maintain family ties attenuated by time, space, politics, and very different economic opportunities. Her current project looks at the rise of Christian evangelicalism among Cambodian youth born after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge, finding their way in a country increasingly shaped by a global economic and cultural processes.

Paper Title: “From Collateral Damage, to Victimized Refugees, to Deportable Felons: Cambodians in the Shifting Focus of American Priorities”

Paper Abstract: 55,000 Cambodians, survivors of civil war, displacement, famine and the violent dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge revolution, were resettled as refugees in the US in the early 1980s. However, these refugees encountered a very different citizenship and authority structure than the one they left behind, and have found themselves victimized and excluded a second time by a state they assumed would protect them. This paper looks at the last 45 years of Cambodian history and the way US government policy has intersected with it, first destabilizing the society and government, contributing to the rise of the Khmer Rouge; then offering refuge to the survivors of genocide; and finally, punishing resettled refugees who “failed to integrate” as law-abiding citizens with deportation to a “homeland” many had never known.

This is a story of the serial displacement and serial re-classification of Cambodians, from collateral damage, to victims of genocide, to deportable felons, by a succession of US governments much more concerned about the political effects of their policies than their human consequences.

Mellon Sawyer Seminar

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