DK-Memorialisation Research

The Democratic Kampuchea-Memorialisation International Studies (DK-MEMOSIS) is an applied research group committed to the analysis of the various forms of memorialisation of the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979) in Cambodia, with a focus on the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Choeung Ek ‘Killing Fields’. Its objective is to stimulate interdisciplinary research on the representation of Cambodia's difficult past in museums and memorials. It brings together an international network of academics, heritage practitioners, curators and other interested parties, and it facilitates the public discussion on museum practices, preservation, archives, history education and the transmission of memory through cultural performances and social media.

The activities of DK-MEMOSIS include meetings, workshops, exhibitions, publications and a blog. Founding members of DK-MEMOSIS are:

  • Dr Stéphanie Benzaquen-Gautier (CHC / EUR)
  • Anne-Laure Porée MA (Anthropology Department, Écoles des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
  • Prof. Vicente Sánchez-Biosca (Theory of Languages and Communication Science Department, University of Valencia)

Objectives of DK-MEMOSIS 2017-2019

  • Organizing international meetings and workshops in Cambodia and Europe;
  • Releasing publications (peer-reviewed journals, special issues, and a book of collected essays);
  • Promoting the activities of DK-MEMOSIS through a blog;
  • Marking the forty-year anniversary of the conception of the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum with a touring photography exhibition and a catalogue.

Long-term objectives of DK-MEMOSIS

  • Producing an extensive bibliography and filmography of S-21, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek;
  • Expanding research into other sites of Khmer Rouge-related heritage in Cambodia;
  • Developing history education workshops (with regard to the Khmer Rouge period) that can be used in different institutional frameworks;
  • Encouraging exchanges at the international level between memorial institutions, and between these institutions and academic and public sectors.

Background information

The Khmer Rouge regime operated nearly 200 detention centers throughout Cambodia. The infamous S-21 prison, which was converted into the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in 1979, and the associated Choeung Ek site, where S-21 inmates were killed and disposed of, had a central function in the terror apparatus in Democratic Kampuchea. For this reason, they played from the start a major role in memory politics in Cambodia and international circles.

The initial idea behind the founding of DK-MEMOSIS is to understand how these two sites and the perception of them changed over time. This includes the study of:

  • the museums and memorials as pedagogical, experiential, and performative tools addressing different kinds of public;
  • the tension between local and global forms of memorialisation;
  • the impact of transitional justice with the trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (emergence of new documents, archives and testimonies);
  • the different uses of the sites in ceremonies and daily routines;
  • the ongoing remodeling of spaces through exhibitions and renovations;
  • the contested interpretations of the Cambodian past;
  • the commodification of the Khmer Rouge period in the context of ‘dark tourism’ and memory industry.

In a more general way, DK-MEMOSIS studies the role this heritage may play in the formation of national and international stories, history education, processes of reconciliation, postconflict reconstruction and the transmission of civic values.