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Flowers Falling from the Sky: Invasive Species and War Memory in the Highlands of Cambodia
October 8, 2021 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
The landscape of Cambodia is alive with memory. In the country’s northeast highlands, each new historical conjuncture — from the ravages of colonialism to the current moment of extraction and dispossession — has seen new forms of relation between people and the land. For the inhabitants of this hill country, Jarai-speaking highlanders who live in the Cambodia-Vietnam borderland, the changing landscape expresses not only changing social relations, but memories of past experience too. This talk examines one such conjuncture, the American-Vietnam War, and the landscape transformations enacted during this time, transformations that live on today in the form of memory. In particular, two species of non-native plant, species that arrived concurrently with American aircraft and personnel, have become central to the ways that highland people use the landscape to narrativize and negotiate their past.
Jonathan Padwe is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. His book Disturbed Forests, Fragmented Memories: Jarai and Other Lives in the Cambodian Highlands was published in 2020 by the University of Washington Press. Padwe has worked for over 15 years in Cambodia’s northeast borderland. His work examines the ways that members of the Jarai people of Cambodia and Vietnam manage and understand the environment, documents their experience of war and violence, and tracks changing social and environmental relations historically.