Coffee Hour with James Tyner: Conspiratorial Geographies: Power and Paranoia under the Communist Party of Kampuchea

Friday, October 28, 2016 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

S-21 interior


This week's Coffee Hour lecture is co-sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute.

About the talk

The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK; also known as the ‘Khmer Rouge’) constitutes one of the most violent and inhumane apparatus of state terror in the twentieth-century. Between April 1975 and January 1979, the Khmer Rouge carried out a program of mass violence that is, in many respects, unparalleled in modern history. In just under four years, upwards of two million people and approximately one-quarter of the country’s pre-1975 population died. Many of these deaths resulted from starvation and disease. However, an untold number were executed at numerous security-centers established throughout the country. Among these, the security-center code-named "S-21" is especially notable. Located in Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh, S-21 was one of approximately 200 security-centers. However, unlike most security-centers, S-21 is notable because it was established as a military-political facility designed to identify, interrogate, and ultimately execute perceived enemies of the state. Accordingly, most prisoners who were detained and killed were not ‘ordinary’ people but instead Khmer Rouge cadre or relatives of Khmer Rouge cadre. Considerable scholarly attention has focused on S-21; most attention, however, has concentrated either on the symbolic importance of S-21 as a "total institution" or has examined the memorialization of the genocide as reflected by the conversion of the prison into a museum. Apart from David Chandler’s pioneering work, however, minimal empirical analysis of S-21 has been conducted. In response to this lacuna, in this paper I provide an empirical analysis of arrests and execution records compiled at S-21. However, I do so through the theoretical prisms of conspiratorial geographies critical criminology. More specifically, I focus on the interstices between lists of arrests and lists of executions. In so doing, I detail how the CPK employed and archived prisoner lists as particular technologies of ordering.

About the speaker

James TynerJames A. Tyner is professor of geography at Kent State University, Ohio. His research operates at the intersection of political and population geography with a focus on war, violence and genocide. He is the author of 14 books, including War, Violence, and Population (2009) which received the AAG Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Contribution to Geography and Iraq, Terror, and the Philippines’ Will to War (2007) which received the Julian Minghi Award for Outstanding Contribution to Political Geography. His latest book, Memory, Landscape, and Post-Violence in Cambodia will be released in November.


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Coffee Hour