Visual Storytelling about Genocide, Displacement, and Exile

Encounters with Rithy Panh

in Conflict and Society
Katarzyna GrabskaSenior Researcher, PRIO Centre on Culture and Violent Conflict, Norway

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In this article, I examine encounters with an artist and his art: Cambodian exile filmmaker Rithy Panh. In his cinematographic and artwork, Rithy Panh comes to terms with his childhood, the death of his family, and the suffering of his people during the Khmer Rouge regime and the genocide in Cambodia. Conflict and displacement are themes usually approached by researchers using language-based methods, which do not give us fully adequate insights into the “felt and experienced” temporal/spatial aspects of conflict and displacement. I frame my discussion through the reflective interaction between art, an artist with violent conflict and displacement background and the audience—a researcher. First, I examine how taking the sentipensar approach to research through art encounters and researcher as a thinking-feeling person contributes to a different understanding of personal trajectories, experiences of, and emotions connected to conflict, war, and displacement. My second aim is to analyze how artistic practice of Rithy Panh contributes to coming to terms with and to creating alternatives to the official public discourses about the past and the present, at individual and societal levels.

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