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Historical imagination, diasporic identity and Islamicity among the Cham Muslims of Cambodia

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Since the departure of the UN Transitional Authority (UNTAC) in 1993, the Cambodian Muslim community has undergone a rapid transformation from being an Islamic minority on the periphery of the

Since the departure of the UN Transitional Authority (UNTAC) in 1993, the Cambodian Muslim community has undergone a rapid transformation from being an Islamic minority on the periphery of the Muslim world to being the object of intense proselytization by foreign Islamic organizations, charities and development organizations. This has led to a period of religious as well as political ferment in which Cambodian Muslims are reassessing their relationships to other Muslim communities in the country, fellow Muslims outside of the country, and an officially Buddhist state. This dissertation explores the ways in which the Cham Muslims of Cambodia have deployed notions of nationality, citizenship, history, ethnicity and religion in Cambodia's new political and economic climate. It is the product of a multi-sited ethnographic study conducted in Phnom Penh and Kampong Chhnang as well as Kampong Cham and Ratanakiri. While all Cham have some ethnic and linguistic connection to each other, there have been a number of reactions to the exposure of the community to outside influences. This dissertation examines how ideas and ideologies of history are formed among the Cham and how these notions then inform their acceptance or rejection of foreign Muslims as well as of each other. This understanding of the Cham principally rests on an appreciation of the way in which geographic space and historical events are transformed into moral symbols that bind groups of people or divide them. Ultimately, this dissertation examines the Cham not only as an Islamic minority, but as an Islamic diaspora - a particular form of identity construction which has implications for their future development and relations with non-Muslim peoples. It reconsiders the classifications of diasporas proposed by Robin Cohen and William Safran, by incorporating Arjun Appadurai's conception of locality as a construct that must be continuously rendered in praxis to generate the socially shared understanding of space, geography and its meaning for communitarian identity. This treatment of Islamic transnationalism within the context of diaspora studies can contribute to the broader conversation on the changing face of Islamic identity in an increasingly globalized world.

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Date Created
  • 2012

Museum networks: the exchange of the Smithsonian Institution's duplicate anthropology collections

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This dissertation examines a practice of scientific museums in the 19th and early 20th centuries: the exchange of their duplicate specimens. Specimen exchange facilitated the rise of universal museums while

This dissertation examines a practice of scientific museums in the 19th and early 20th centuries: the exchange of their duplicate specimens. Specimen exchange facilitated the rise of universal museums while creating a transnational network through which objects, knowledge, and museum practitioners circulated. My primary focus concerns the exchange of anthropological duplicate specimens at the Smithsonian Institution from 1880 to 1920. Specimen exchange was implemented as a strategic measure to quell the growth of scientific collections curated by the Smithsonian prior garnering to the broad political support needed to fund a national museum. My analysis examines how its practice was connected to both anthropological knowledge production, particularly in terms of diversifying the scope of museum collections, and knowledge dissemination. The latter includes an examination of how anthropological duplicates were used to illustrate competing explanations of culture change and generate interest in anthropological subject matter for non-specialist audiences. I examine the influence of natural history classification systems on museum-based anthropology by analyzing how the notion of duplicate was applied to collections of material culture. As the movement of museum objects are of particular concern to anthropologists involved in repatriation practices, I use specimen exchange to demonstrate that while keeping objects is a definitive function of the museum, an understanding of why and how museum objects have been kept or not kept in the past, particularly in terms of the intentions and value systems of curators, is critical in developing an ethically oriented dialogue about disposition of museum objects in the future.

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Date Created
  • 2014