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Refaced/Defaced: Using Photographic Portraits of Khmer Rouge Perpetrators in Justice, Education and Human Rights Activism in Cambodia

Author:

Stephanie Benzaquen-Gautier

Centre for Historical Culture, Erasmus University Rotterdam, NL
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Abstract

This article explores the use of photographic portraits of Khmer Rouge perpetrators in Cambodia’s public sphere today. It is often said that the Democratic Kampuchea regime was faceless. Hidden behind the façade of the Angkar (the Organization), the Khmer Rouge leaders engaged in limited personality cult, thereby remaining invisible to the major part of the Cambodian population during their years in power. What happens then when ‘evil’ is given a face, or rather specific faces? How does the former ‘invisibility’ of senior Khmer Rouge shape the later reception of their public image? To what extent do the photographic portraits of mass murderers provide socially accepted forms of emotional release for victims in particular and for society in general? Is it possible to go beyond affect and use such photos as tools of information and education about genocide and accountability? How do media, especially social media, contribute to these processes? To answer these questions, I look at a selected set of examples: the exhibition ‘Genocide: Who are the Senior Khmer Rouge Leaders to be Judged? The Importance of Case 002’, organized by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum; the graffiti-covered photos of Khmer Rouge leaders and guards displayed at Tuol Sleng; and the Dartboard Game action performed in Phnom Penh’s public space by the Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia (AKRVC) in 2011 and 2012.

How to Cite: Benzaquen-Gautier, S., 2019. Refaced/Defaced: Using Photographic Portraits of Khmer Rouge Perpetrators in Justice, Education and Human Rights Activism in Cambodia. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 2(2), pp.130–155.
Published on 18 Aug 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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