ANTH3980-ABR.Special Topics: Cambodia.J17.Hoffman,Brian

Faculty Name

Brian Hoffman

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Course Title

Special Topics: Cambodia

Academic Term and Year

Winter 2017



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Course Description

Mandatory On-Campus Classes: December 5 & 16, 2016 and January 26, 2017, 1:00-3:00 PM Cambodia’s ancient Khmer civilization was the largest kingdom in Southeast Asia during the 9th to 15th Centuries CE. The ruins of hundreds of ornate stone temples, palaces, and other architecture from this civilization are preserved throughout the jungle forests and rice fields of Cambodia. Among the most famous of these ruins are the Angkor sites near the city of Siem Reap. Listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage site in 1992, a time when few tourists saw these ruins, Angkor now receives two million visitors each year. This explosion in tourism has provided crucial infusions of cash into both national and regional economies. It has also brought challenges to the preservation of the sites. From an anthropological perspective, Angkor and the other ancient Khmer sites offer an opportunity to explore issues surrounding the intersections between global tourism and heritage management, economic development and cultural and natural preservation, local stakeholders and national and even global patrimony. Students attending this study abroad course will travel to Cambodia where we will explore many of the ancient ruins while we stay in the nearby towns and villages. We will employ an ethnographic field methodology, observing tourists and people working in the tourism and heritage management industries. We will observe the organization of time and space, the performances, the material culture, and the representations of past and present Cambodia. Exploring ruins allows us to learn about ancient culture. To better understand modern Cambodian culture, we will also spend time exploring the town of Siem Reap and some of the nearby villages. Through these experiences we will gain insight into rural culture, but more importantly we will make observations about the impact of the tourism industry and international heritage management on local Khmer communities. These two activities ¬ exploring ancient sites and visiting contemporary villages ¬will provide students with a powerful cultural experience – allowing us to address a number of theoretical, practical, and philosophical questions. What does it mean for a place to be a “World Heritage Site”? What are the impacts on the local communities? What is an “authentic” heritage site? And who owns the past?

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