Organized Panel Session
How did Maoism arise as an alternative modernity for disaffected intellectuals in Cambodia? How did those outside the intellectual thrust of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), who encountered Maoist works in Paris, eventually become Maoist devotees? This paper approaches the study of Cambodian Maoism via a biographical tetraptych of Phouk Chhay (ភោគឆាយ) told via the genealogical method. Phouk neither studied in Paris-based Marxist reading cells, nor joined the French Left like his future CPK peers. Yet he radicalized in 1960s Phnom Penh, criticizing the ruling government in his 1966 doctoral dissertation and espousing Maoism after visiting China in 1965. Ours is thus a story of becoming, in which we examine the central roles of community (topographical dimensions of community), and network (cultivation of networks not predetermined by community) in pushing Phouk towards radicalization. The essay seeks to chart the course of Cambodian Maoism by making broader sense of his life and by referring to organizations in which he participated actively. To give substance to his life’s significance, the article traces threads between his life trajectory and such organizations as the Maoist Association d’Amitié Khméro-Chinoise (AAKC), analyzing the topographical dimensions of his home (Takéo Province), his 1966 PhD dissertation, and his eventual trip to China and subsequent conversion to Communism. The ultimate goal is to uncover one of the keys to understanding the broader reception of Maoism in Cambodian intellectual circles, and to explore how radicalization occurred among an individual who did not sojourn in Europe like his CPK comrades.