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A tale of two cities: Angkor and Siem Reap – the evolution of competing sites of memory

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Abstract:

Reductive histories have shaped the roles of the ruins of Angkor and the neighbouring town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. In Angkor, both the French colonial and subsequent Cambodian regimes found an indispensable source of symbolic material and quarried the metaphors of building for ideological purposes. Reimagined as a French monument and detached from Khmer culture, Angkor eclipsed the modern town. Nevertheless, Siem Reap also provided narratives of progress and modernity before and after independence. The tension between preservation and new construction in a country emerging from a long period of unrest continues to place an interpretative burden on the built environment. Michel de Certeau theorized that 'haunting', the unbidden memories present in the landscape, can be exorcized by the practice of conservation. Oral testimonies suggest the possibility of contestation.

Keywords: ANGKOR; CAMBODIA; CONSERVATION; HAUNTING; INDOCHINA; SIEM REAP; TOURISM

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/147335305780953755

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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