Refugee Lifeworlds: The Afterlife of the Cold War in Cambodia (Asian American History & Cultu) (Paperback)
Cambodian history is Cold War history, asserts Y-Dang Troeung in Refugee Lifeworlds. Constructing a genealogy of the afterlife of the Cold War in Cambodia, Troeung mines historical archives and family anecdotes to illuminate the refugee experience, and the enduring impact of war, genocide, and displacement in the lives of Cambodian people.
Troeung, a child of refugees herself, employs a method of autotheory that melds critical theory, autobiography, and textual analysis to examine the work of contemporary artists, filmmakers, and authors. She references a proverb about the Cambodian kapok tree that speaks to the silences, persecutions, and modes of resistance enacted during the Cambodian Genocide, and highlights various literary texts, artworks, and films that seek to document and preserve Cambodian histories nearly extinguished by the Khmer Rouge regime.
Addressing the various artistic responses to prisons and camps, issues of trauma, disability, and aphasia, as well as racism and decolonialism, Refugee Lifeworlds repositions Cambodia within the broader transpacific formation of the Cold War. In doing so, Troeung reframes questions of international complicity and responsibility in ways that implicate us all.
Y-Dang Troeung (1980-2022) was an Assistant Professor of English at the University of British Columbia.
“To read Refugee Lifeworlds is to have the synapses connect, lighting up the ways that refugee legacies, disability, and mental health have always been meant to speak to each other, but only now can. It is also to meet history anew, as Y-Dang Troeung moves across an astonishing archive of documents, moments, and texts with a close-reader’s care and a storyteller’s grace. This book is stunning—at once beautiful and devastating. It is the work of grieving, so that we may better regroup.”—erin Khue Ninh, author of Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities and Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature
“Refugee Lifeworlds is a brilliant weaving of epistemological intervention, autofiction as political grievance, and abolitionist knowledge production. Argued with care and beautifully written, this profound book is invaluable for understanding the intersections of war, imperialism, and disability.”—Jasbir K Puar, author of The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability
"[Troeung] incisively illustrates the importance of putting critical refugee studies in conversation with critical disability studies: the book’s main intervention."—Journal of Asian American Studies
"Given the book’s richly contextualized text and engagé human pacifist message, this short review can hardly do justice to a work replete with brilliant flashes…. Y-Dang Troeung has bequeathed to us a small masterpiece and poignant self-memorial.”—Pacific Historical Review
"Troeung strongly and artfully argues that the so-called Cold War was not cold in Cambodia.... An effective storyteller, Troeung has produced a work of grieving that creatively interweaves discussions of autofiction, autotheory, political grievance, trauma, and disability, including the 'violence of benevolence' of the countries that received Cambodian refugees.... Though not a happy book, this is an excellent one. Summing Up: Highly recommended."—Choice
"With this book, the author has compiled an impressive refugee archive depicting the politics of refusal of state violence.... She skillfully connects the autobiographical self with both theory and experiences of gender, race, colonialism, refuge-seeking, survival and family inheritance as sources of knowledge. The result is a highly readable and interesting book."—International Institute for Asian Studies
"Troeung reframes questions of international complicity and responsibility in the Cambodia genocide in ways that implicate us all. Such is the power of this book including a final 'coda,' that no one reading it could doubt her general sentiments for a moment.... Given the book’s richly contextualized text and engagé human pacifist message, this short review can hardly do justice to a work replete with brilliant flashes.... [A] small masterpiece and poignant self-memorial."—Pacific Historical Review