Epistemology of the Past: Exploring Multilayers of Intellectual Traditions and Knowledge Transformation in Colonial and Post-Independence Cambodia.

Southeast Asian Studies - 2024-05-14
14 May 2024 10.00 AM - 11.30 AM SHHK Seminar Room 6 (01-04) Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Roger Nelson

The encounter of indigenous history-making tradition with Western historical practice has been long neglected in Southeast Asian scholarship. In this presentation, Dr. Thun offers one of the first critical and systematic studies of the ‘interface’ between these two distinctive forms of intellectual tradition and their impacts on society. By examining historical discourses on Cambodia through the precolonial, colonial, and post-independence years, he discusses an account of Cambodian scholars, with varying perspectives, who advocated competing versions of history. Dr. Thun argues that new discourses about national history emerged by drawing on, combining, rejecting, or, in many cases, reconfiguring older discourses of precolonial history-making traditions. This presentation will disclose multilayers of intellectual traditions and diverse views of Cambodian and, more broadly, Southeast Asian scholars engaging with European colonial-era scholarship.

Dr. Theara Thun is a Postdoctoral Fellow under the Research Grants Committee Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme, The University of Hong Kong. His research interests include Cambodian/Southeast Asian intellectual history, ethnic politics, and post-war education. He is the author of a forthcoming book titled Epistemology of the Past: Texts, History, and Intellectuals of Cambodia, 1855-1970 (Hawai’i University Press, August 2024).

Photo:  The twenty-one-meter-tall statue of Preah Thong and Neang Neak, newly built in coastal Sihanoukville Province in 2022. The construction of the largest copper statue in the country suggests the influence of precolonial history-making traditions in recounting stories such as that of the Preah Thong Neang Neak that are meaningful to modern Cambodia’s collective memory. Photograph courtesy of Song Pheaktra, March 2023. Used with permission.