Labor and Technology
Cambodian Postwar Media Reconstruction and the Geopolitics of Technology
264 pp., 6 x 9 in, 40 b&w illus.
- Published: May 16, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How a generation of tech-savvy young Cambodians is restoring historical media artifacts from before the war—and, in the process, helping to repair the Khmer Rouge's cultural destruction.
During the Khmer Rouge regime (1975–1979), an estimated quarter to a third of the Cambodian population perished from execution, starvation, or disease. The regime especially targeted artists and intellectuals and their work, including films, photographs, and audio recordings. In Media Ruins, Margaret Jack charts the critical role of media in the historical political landscape of Cambodia as well as in its post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. Along the way, Jack tells the remarkable stories of resourceful Cambodians in the decades that followed the end of the regime—those who worked to reconstruct their country's media infrastructure and restore their damaged cultural heritage.
Jack describes the crucial role that media has played in helping the nation grapple with the traumas of its past and imagine brighter futures. She explores how tech-savvy Cambodian media creators have engaged in practices of infrastructural restitution—work that is both emotionally cathartic and politically vital. She also examines the ways these media creators have used digital tools to restore and disseminate lost media artifacts, while embracing an aesthetic of material decay as a visible reminder of loss. As these creators reconcile with the past, they are also finding ways to navigate the country's increasingly authoritarian media landscape. Bringing media and technology studies into conversation with trauma and memory studies, the book provides a unique, and necessary, perspective on post-conflict reconstruction.
“Margaret Jack shows us the power of doing infrastructure studies with historical and spatial specificity. An extraordinary exploration of Cambodian media histories at the intersection of infrastructure studies, Asian studies, and STS.”
Kavita Philip, President's Excellence Chair in Network Cultures, University of British Columbia; author of Civilizing Natures and coeditor of Your Computer is on Fire
“Sensitive, powerful, compelling, and haunting, Margaret Jack's ethnography of Cambodian artists and media activists illuminates the crucial importance of digital expression and archiving in collective fashioning of self-identity.”
Paul Dourish, Steckler Endowed Chair of Information and Computer Science, University of California, Irvine; author of The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information