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Challenging scales and making relations

Accounts of development and humanitarianism, including its critiques, have long been preoccupied with its institutional forms, driven by governments and international organisations. Such emphasis often attributes significance to the large-scale. The book argues that engaging with the informal and local manifestations of aid disrupts this assumption. It draws on ethnographic research with practitioners in Cambodia, who run their privately funded aid projects. They include Cambodians and foreigners, from Asia and the Global North, who undertake these projects of their own initiative. The book demonstrates how they make their own scales, offering radically different understandings of what actions are significant, and who counts. Such a perspective queries core humanitarian beliefs, and theories of social change more generally. It suggests that everyday practitioners operate with multiple, interlinking scales of their own making. Rather than being dismissed as ‘small scale’, they demonstrate how they render people and causes meaningful, regardless of numbers or size. They question the role of distance for aid, and reveal a nuanced interplay of proximity and distance to those in need. Such unsettling of the valorisation of the large-scale extends to social relations. The ‘distant stranger’ as the archetypal object of humanitarianism is replaced by a desire to get to know others through the act of assistance, often through idioms of kinship. Critically nuancing the trope of the ‘white saviour’, everyday aid is characterised by multiple affinity ties between actors from the Global North and South, which direct and motivate development and humanitarian action.

Helen Jarvis

The Khmer Rouge forbade the conduct of any funeral rites at the time of the death of the estimated two million people who perished during their rule (1975–79). Since then, however, memorials have been erected and commemorative ceremonies performed, both public and private, especially at former execution sites, known widely as the killing fields. The physical remains themselves, as well as images of skulls and the haunting photographs of prisoners destined for execution, have come to serve as iconic representations of that tragic period in Cambodian history and have been deployed in contested interpretations of the regime and its overthrow.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Eşref Aksu

A N EXAMINATION OF the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) 1 should prove especially illuminating for our study in that this mission points to the growing willingness of the international community to involve the UN in intra-state governance. It helps us, in other words, to scrutinise more closely the relationship between the changing

in The United Nations, intra-state peacekeeping and normative change
Magali An Berthon

Introduction In Cambodia, silk weaving is an ancient textile practice dating back as early as the thirteenth century. Structured as a cottage activity, it was almost exclusively run by women in rural areas, the cloth and clothes produced mostly destined for domestic consumption. In the mid-1970s, the Khmer Rouge regime nearly destroyed the entire local silk production. Since the country’s pacification process in the early 1990s, the sector has reopened to international investment and restructured under the

in Threads of globalization
Johanna Söderström

of war elites often results in a serious tradeoff between the promotion of peace and democracy (Söderström 2015 ; see also Jarstad and Sisk 2008 ). Overall, continuity of elites tends to be the defining trait despite the upheaval of war and peace agreements. The question, then, is how the legacy of these elites has played out over the years. Among cases where the armed conflict, and particularly a civil war, ended many years ago, Cambodia is a case where the degree of elite continuity is extreme. There, following the first elections, some of the peace signatories

in Relational peace practices
Cambodia’s bones
Fiona Gill

The display of human remains is a controversial issue in many contemporary societies, with many museums globally removing them from display. However, their place in genocide memorials is also contested. Objections towards the display of remains are based strongly in the social sciences and humanities, predicated on assumptions made regarding the relationship between respect, identification and personhood. As remains are displayed scientifically and anonymously, it is often argued that the personhood of the remains is denied, thereby rendering the person ‘within’ the remains invisible. In this article I argue that the link between identification and personhood is, in some contexts, tenuous at best. Further, in the context of Cambodia, I suggest that such analyses ignore the ways that local communities and Cambodians choose to interact with human remains in their memorials. In such contexts, the display of the remains is central to restoring their personhood and dignity.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Synchronicity in Historical Research and Archiving Humanitarian Missions
Bertrand Taithe
,
Mickaël le Paih
, and
Fabrice Weissman

This roundtable was convened on 5 July 2022 and built on five years of collaborative work in Cambodia and ongoing collaborations within the Centre de Reflexion sur l’Action et les Savoirs Humanitaires (CRASH) at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) between Bertrand Taithe, Mickaël le Paih and Fabrice Weissman. The central question raised in this discussion relates to two profoundly intermeshed issues for humanitarian practitioners and organisations: the use of history for

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
In search of the Republic of Vietnam war dead
Alex-Thái Dinh Võ

Finding, identifying and interring the war dead are ethically and ceremonially crucial tasks for healing, repairing and legitimising. Before the end of the Vietnam War, the United States had begun to look for missing Americans in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In the wake of its victory and takeover of South Vietnam, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam went to great lengths to identify and immortalise its fallen soldiers. The same cannot be said for the war dead of the Republic of Vietnam, whose fall on 30 April 1975 made the war dead stateless; consequently they have never been legitimately acknowledged by the current Vietnamese government or their former ally, the United States. This article explores the accounting efforts by Nguyen Dạc Thành and the Vietnamese American Foundation to reveal the financial, logistical, technical and political opportunities and challenges in accounting for war dead associated with a state that no longer exists.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Arjun Claire

cover for governments and institutions to co-opt and channel criticism ( de Waal, 2015 : 31–6). In humanitarian action, activism manifested in the form of the Cambodian March for Survival, in 1980, when many aid representatives organised a demonstration at the Thai-Cambodian border to allow cross-border assistance into Cambodia ( Weissman, 2011 : 179). While activism is a confrontational form of realising change, advocacy relies on building relationships

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Phoebe Shambaugh
and
Bertrand Taithe

roundtable closes this issue with Bertrand Taithe, Mickaël le Paih and Fabrice Weissman reflecting on archiving and knowledge production in humanitarian missions. This roundtable takes two instances from Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) operational contexts in Cambodia and Malawi to inform a discussion on the role of history in rethinking humanitarian aid. Facilitated by long-standing research collaborations, the participants discuss attempts to prevent institutional amnesia in MSF’s operational

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs