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USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research: "Ritualcide: Priming Mass Violence and Terror Under the Khmer Rouge"

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Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 4:00pm


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2015/02/26 Lecture by Dr. Peg LeVine: "Ritualcide: Priming Mass Violence and Terror Under the Khmer Rouge"

Language: English

USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research Center Fellow Peg Levine, PhD, EdD, discusses her term Ritualcide and its application during the Cambodian Genocide.

Doheny Memorial Library Room 240

Consider the double bind voiced by Mr. O in Cambodia: "What is better? To tell my children what really happened to me under the Khmer Rouge, or to protect their imaginations? ... They tell me to forget. I am afraid to remember and I am afraid to forget." (LeVine. 2010, Love and Dread in Cambodia, pg. 162). Today, Mr. O has access to daily ritual protection inside Cambodia and takes seriously his obligation to honor his ancestors through complex sequencing of traditional rites; he strives to build karma for the living and the dead. That was not the case under the Khmer Rouge. 

Dr. LeVine brings a multidimensional lens to Genocide Studies as a trauma psychologist, anthropologist, Asian studies scholar, and sculptor. She sought a cultural baseline of accounts by Cambodians who did not migrate, resettle as refugees, or adopt Western perspectives; she recorded meanings they gave to justice and baksbat (trauma). During her seven year ethnographic and film study, she travelled with survivors and traced their forced evacuation, forced labor camps, forced conscription into the forces, forced starvation, and conscription into marriage - through to births and communal recovery.

Dr. LeVine will define ritualcide and show how deliberate tampering with and destruction of rituals by the Khmer Rouge emerged as a factor that primed mass violence, terror, and muteness in Cambodia. Rituals can bind culture, protect ancestors, and order the cosmos for community protection. 

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