Everyday Traces: Diasporic Hauntings and the Affectivity of Historical Trauma Among Cambodian-Australian Women
AffiliationSchool of Culture and Communication
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2023-03-15.
© 2020 Maria Hach
This thesis explores how traces of the Cambodian genocide affectively haunts Cambodian-Australian women. I draw upon postcolonial theory, affect theory and feminist studies, to analyse the ways in which Cambodian-Australian women mediate memories and experiences in relation to broader cultural, social and historical structures. I contend that intergenerational trauma, gendered norms, and the politics of racism and belonging shape women’s connections to their Cambodian heritage and Cambodian identities in diverse and significant ways. My methodology, which includes qualitative in-depth interviews with Cambodian-Australian women is informed by a feminist approach that foregrounds women’s lived experiences. Yet, this thesis is not only about haunted diasporic subjects; it is also written from the perspective of a haunted diasporic subject. Given my positionality as an ‘insider’ researcher, I use a reflexive, autoethnographic approach, to writing, in order to challenge conventional modes of storytelling in academia and to interrogate what counts as ‘evidence’ in social science research. To this end, I situate my autoethnographic pieces alongside my participants’ narratives in an attempt to disrupt the subject-researcher distinction. My thesis adopts Grace Cho’s (2008) creative and reflexive approach and Avery Gordon’s (2008) method of ‘linking imagination and critique’, to not only explore the hauntings legacies of the Cambodian genocide, but to perform the very thing that my research tries to capture: ‘affective hauntings’. Using Avery Gordon’s (2008) theory of ‘haunting’ as an overarching framework, I argue that for many of my participants, all of whom were raised in Australia by one or both parents who survived the Cambodian genocide, the collective traumas of Cambodia’s devastating history have affected and continue to affect their lives, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Intergenerational hauntings, while sometimes difficult to locate, can provoke affective states that are embodied, and reflect emotions such as confusion, guilt, unease, melancholy, sadness, sorrow, pain, pride, and gratitude. These affective states are relational, contextually driven, cultural, discursive and continually negotiated. Certainly, embodied hauntings speak to histories of grief and loss, and yet from this loss, something else, something beyond psychopathology emerges. Drawing on feminist theories that highlight the generative possibilities of affect (Dragojlovic and Broom 2018; Ahmed 2010), I explore how intergenerational hauntings are sites of possibility that can open up new ways of thinking about identity and agency. As illustrated by my participants’ narratives, hauntings can be expressed by desires to actively engage with the past, recover histories, and ‘return’ to Cambodia.
KeywordsHauntings; Trauma; Women; Cambodia; Diaspora; Intergenerational; Affect; Australia; Interviews; Feminist; Autoethnography
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