Cambodia’s “Golden Age”: Accessing the Global History of the Sangkum
Time & LocationSession 3
Wed 13:30–15:00 Room 1.204
- Ron Leonhardt George Washington University
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- Being a Good Sport: A Comparative Study of Southeast Asian Sporting Events, Athletes, and Citizenship in Burma and Thailand, 1950–1970 JoAnn LoSavio Northern Illinois University
Indigenous, traditional sports, such as chin lon in Burma and boxing in Thailand, and widely practiced competitive sports like swimming, football, and weightlifting became increasingly significant as elements of national identity in post-colonial Burma and Thailand. Multi-national, regional competitive sports events, such as ASIAD and SEATO Games, and smaller, single-sport exchanges between Southeast Asian nations served as political conduits for these states to assert sovereignty. I propose, in addition to this function, Burma and Thailand utilized this novel competitive platform to engage their citizens in their respective nation-building programs, to develop a culture of national pride, and cultivate behaviors that conformed to and promoted state concepts of citizenship.
This project is novel for its subject matter, the intersection of two twentieth-century phenomena: multi-national sporting events and processes of decolonization in Southeast Asia. It also contributes to a growing body of historical scholarship that examines the processes of decolonization through a cultural lens. Here I view the process as an engagement between the state and its citizens, rather than as a political or diplomatic exchange between states. My conclusions are based on my visual and textual analysis of historical images, photographs, and texts produced by Burmese and Thai state-controlled publications. These documents aimed at foreign audiences and reveal these states’ perspectives. They also show how Burmese and Thai citizens and athletes engaged with the state, performed citizenship through the medium of sports, and participated in the post-colonial impetus to develop a national identity.
- Pakistan’s Afro-Asian Diplomacy as Seen Through Pakistan-Cambodian Relations Rohail Salman George Washington University
This paper will examine Pakistan-Cambodian relations in the 1960s, using documents and sources from the United States, Pakistan and Cambodia. The 1960s is an important decade for analysis for several reasons. Several important events are interspersed in the decade, including the two Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO) games, the Sino-Indian border conflict in 1962, the 1965 Pakistan-India war, and efforts to strengthen the Afro-Asian community. By analyzing Pakistan’s diplomacy during the 1960s this paper will explore how Pakistan’s cultural, economic and political ties with Cambodia coincided with its close relationship with the US and its membership of SEATO.
- Santapheap in the Sangkum: Cambodia, Public Health and Geopolitics, 1950–1970 Trude Jacobsen George Washington University
The Cold War era saw competing international aid programs from the two ideological “blocs” with which countries were supposedly aligned: Democratic countries, led by the United States, and communist countries, led by the Soviet Union and, after 1961, the People’s Republic of China. Whilst some nations aligned themselves as “pro-western” or “pro-communist”, others opted for “neutrality” – which resulted in tranches of aid from both blocs as they tried to sway the neutralists to their side. Military assistance in the form of advisers, equipment, and infrastructure to sides of civil conflict during this period have been well studied, particularly for Vietnam and Laos; less focus has been upon technical assistance for non-military development, including public health. Cambodia was an avowedly “neutral” state from independence in 1953 until the fall of the country to the PRC-backed Khmer Rouge in 1975 and received assistance in the form of technical experts, equipment, and supplies from both western and communist bloc countries. Government publications proudly showcase Cambodia’s improvements in the public health sector throughout the period; personal accounts from healthcare personnel attest to the rapid development of healthcare, at least in the cities. This paper seeks to determine whether the provenance of funding and technical assistance for service delivery, health workforce, information, medical supplies, financing, and governance affected the shape the six building blocks of public health assumed in Cambodia by the early 1970s.
- When Basketball Came to Battambang: The Transformation of Sport Culture in Cold War Cambodia, 1955–1970 Ron Leonhardt George Washington University
After taking control of newly-independent Cambodia in 1955, the Sangkum Party reconfigured colonial sport culture in ways that helped legitimate the “nation” on the international stage. In a span of only twenty years, French-organized Cambodian teams playing the M? Quang Celestials in French Indochina were dissolved and then rebuilt into Sangkum organized Cambodian teams playing the Dinamo Tbilisi in Georgia. This paper will explore the connections between Sangkum Cambodia’s nation-building processes and these sportive “jumps” from colonial intersquad matches to transnational competitions. I will also discuss Cambodia’s involvement in the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), regional pingpong matches with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and other international sportive endeavors in ways that demonstrate their importance both to modern Cambodian history and to the general history of sports during the Cold War.
As archives open up throughout the world, histories are being constantly updated, reconfigured, and expanded. Today in Cambodia, the early postcolonial period is remembered fondly. Norodom Sihanouk’s Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People’s Socialist Community) Party led Cambodia during a period that is often referred to as the ‘golden years’ in Cambodia. However, due to decades of war and political turmoil, popular memory of the Sangkum era is much more robust than actual histories of the Sangkum. This panel examines the Sangkum era in both a postcolonial and global context in an attempt to tease out a more thorough history of Cambodia’s ‘golden years.’ Papers include social development and exchanges, foreign perceptions and interactions with Sangkum Cambodia, state institutions and policies, and the Cold War as the Sangkum understood it. The history of Sangkum Cambodia is beginning to match its place in popular culture due in large part to greater access to history. With materials from Belgrade to Beijing and many depositories in between helping to tell the history of Sangkum Cambodia, this panel will also examine the interplay between accessible and global history and how new technologies and resources are helping to make more history more accessible.