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Introducing UW’s LuceSEA Institutional Partners in Cambodia

October 16, 2020

UW has received a four year, one million dollar grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for the project “Tracing Authoritarianism and Linking Southeast Asia and Southeast Asian America Through Archives, Language, and Pedagogy.” Read the UW News press release introducing the project here

UW’s Luce Foundation grant partners in Cambodia are the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center and the Center for Khmer Studies (CKS). UW Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jenna Grant will lead the collaborations, which include conferences, the study of archival collections, and a fellowship program at CKS. The Bophana Center and CKS are outstanding institutions for scholars of Cambodia and for the Cambodian people. Read on to learn more about their histories and programming.

The Bophana Center

The Bophana Center is an archive and training center founded to preserve media on Cambodia’s history, and provide training to artists, filmmakers, and broadcasters. The Center collects media from around the world centering upon Cambodian history, and makes them freely available to visitors.  Documentation of the Khmer Rouge period, historic films, and photography collections are part of the archive. These resources are made available to enable reflections on Cambodia’s past, and to serve as a starting point for building its future.

The Bophana Center was founded in 2006 by Director Rithy Panh and filmmaker Ieu Pannakar after more than a decade of planning and advocacy. The Center’s name is that of a young woman whose tumultuous life and love story is preserved through letters to her husband. Bophana and her husband were tortured and executed at Security Prison 21, a secondary school turned Khmer Rouge prison which is the subject of Rithy Panh’s 2003 documentary S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. S-21 is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

Panh and Pannakar both felt young Cambodians needed the resources to understand their past, and the skills and tools to express themselves and build their future. Hence, education is core to the Bophana Center’s mission. The Center hosts film festivals, provides production assistance for filmmakers, and runs hands-on training programs that produce documentaries. Read more about some recent productions here.

The Center for Khmer Studies (CKS)

CKS is a scholarly institution with a mission to promote research, teaching, and public service in and about Cambodia and its surrounding region. Its head office is in Siem Reap, with a second office in Phnom Penh. CKS is a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) and receives funding from the US government and many individual and institutional donors.

CKS promotes the study of Cambodia through its resource collections, publications, and programming.  In 2001 CKS opened a library at the Wat Damnak Buddhism monastery in Siem Reap, which now houses more than 14,000 titles on Cambodian and Southeast Asian history and culture. The library remains free for all visitors.

An intensive Khmer language program trains US students and scholars, and fellowship programs support dissertation research, junior residencies for undergraduates and recent graduates, post-doctoral residencies, and research for senior scholars. Some of these programs are available to American, Cambodian, and French scholars while some are only available to Americans. CKS also hosts a research node on urban research to generate data sets and support scholarship on topics such as urban transportation, environmental vulnerabilities, and smart cities.

In 2004 CKS began identifying and translating educational texts into Khmer to address the lack of educational materials available in Khmer in higher education. In 2006 it began training translators to make research in Southeast Asian studies available to Khmer speakers, and from that project produced the Southeast Asian Studies Series. CKS also runs a peer-reviewed journal Siksacakr: The Journal of Cambodia Research, an annual newsletter In Focus, and regularly publishes conference proceedings, reports, and monographs.

The UW Southeast Asia Center is excited to partner with CKS and the Bophana Center to advance our shared mission to preserve and generate new knowledge about Southeast Asia.

We will continue to share resources and opportunities from the Bophana Center and CKS throughout our partnership period. For information on more LuceSEA project partners, keep an eye on our weekly newsletter.