Impassable Visions: The Cambodia to Come, the Detritus in its Wake

Hudson McFann, Alexander Laban Hinton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In April 1975 the Khmer Rouge embarked on a radical campaign to remake Cambodia, one that, in under four years, claimed the lives of approximately 2 million people. We take a critical genocide studies perspective to examine this mass death, arguing that a key dynamic driving the violence was an "impassability." If the revolutionary society was "to come," to borrow Derrida's phrase, the aspiration contained the seeds of its own undoing: the detritus - from the physical garbage of the old regime to its corrupt traditions to the contaminating incorrigibles - needed to constitute the imagined pure state to which it was opposed. First, we discuss how the genocide unfolded, focusing on a postwar campaign to "clean up" war refuse. Second, we examine how this effort to eliminate detritus persisted, albeit in changing form, throughout the Khmer Rouge period. Finally, we analyze the role of Khmer Rouge prisons in constituting enemies as "garbage."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to the Anthropology of Death
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781119222422
ISBN (Print)9781119222293
StatePublished - Apr 27 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Anthropology of genocide
  • Cambodia
  • Critical genocide studies
  • Dehumanization
  • Discard studies
  • Hauntology
  • Khmer Rouge
  • Nationalism
  • Political violence
  • Waste


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