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Cambodia Summer Field

School NIU Department of Anthropology; Cambodian Field School
Photos from 2007

The Rebirth of Cambodian Buddhism, led by Dr. Judy Ledgerwood, July 15-August 15, 2010

This field school is offered in conjunction with the Royal University of Fine Arts (RUFA) Department of Archaeology in Phnom Penh. It repeats successful field schools held in 2003 and 2007. The training is in ethnographic field methods; we spend the first week in a classroom at RUFA learning about Cambodian culture and religion, and introducing the methods that we will be using. These include: structured and semi-structured interviews (including surveys), structured observation, life history interviews, and participant observation. The topic of the research is the rebirth of Cambodian Buddhism. During the Khmer Rouge period in the late 1970s, the radical Marxist regime tried to completely eradicate religion. Since the Paris Peace Agreement of 1991 and the UN sponsored elections in 1993, there has been a spectacular resurgence of Buddhism.

We will spend about three weeks in the field. Students will work in three person teams, two Cambodians and one American on each team. The Cambodian students will serve as translators for the American students (outside Phnom Penh very few people speak English). Each team will work in one community and be based at the community temple. We will drive out in vans each day from the suburbs of Phnom Penh and return at night. Students will stay in a hotel (double occupancy), with hot water and air conditioning. The villages where the research will take place are all within about 30 miles from the city. The teams will interview monks, novices, nuns and community members about the history of rebuilding their community temple – when the temple was rebuilt, how many monks there are, how many men have ordained, what festivals does the temple sponsor, what festivals do people attend, what ceremonies do they sponsor, and about how Buddhism has changed since before the revolution. The instructor and one teaching assistant will move between the field site communities to monitor progress and oversee the research.

For the last three days of the field school students will travel to Siem Reap province to visit the famed temples of the Angkor region, the ancient capital of Cambodia from the 8th to the 14th century. The temples include Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Proum and Banteay Srey. The field school ends there; students can stay longer on their own, book flights directly out of the country from Siem Reap, or return to Phnom Penh and fly out from there.

On the weekends students are free to partake of some tourist activities including visiting the Royal Palace, the National Museum, Wat Phnom, the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the "killing fields" at Choeng Ek.

If you are interested, there are application materials on the NIU website. I can also send you a reading list if you would like to see the books we will be using. Two students were able to use data from the field school for MA theses. I have authored two papers from the data. Please let me know if you have any questions. I would be happy to stay in touch as the planning for the summer proceeds.

Dr. Judy Ledgerwood.