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Pol Pot's total revolution : an inquiry of Democratic Kampuchea as a political religion

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Item Summary

Title: Pol Pot's total revolution : an inquiry of Democratic Kampuchea as a political religion
Authors: DeBurger, Steven Michael
Keywords: Pol Pot
Issue Date: Aug 2012
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2012]
Abstract: Employing Eric Voegelin's concept of 'political religions,' this dissertation constructs a narrative based on published memoirs and autobiographical reflections, as well as philosophical and historical texts, in a quest for an alternate understanding of the violence produced by Pol Pot's Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) during the political existence of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975-1979. Its goal is a discussion of the veiled aspects of the regime scholars may have only glossed over, those aspects mainly being politico-religious, spiritual, metaphysical, and aesthetic. Depicting certain vignettes, this work merely pieces together the hybrid assemblages that make up the Cambodian revolutionary aporia, or unresolved paradox.
It tells the story of the physical and socio-spiritual destruction of the previous faith--Khmer Buddhism. This despiritualization creates a vacuum into which the CPK leadership, or Angkar, reconfigures itself as the new 'god'. It examines the spiritual, mystical, and aesthetic disintegration of the society and Angkar's implementation of itself as the substitutive source of transcendence, truth, beauty, and knowledge.
The dissertation then veers off to consider, not only the mechanisms of the regime itself but the individual within the regime, the perpetrators of the violence, and more specifically the pnuemopathology, or spiritual sickness, of individuals that operated within the government's secret Phnom Penh prison and extermination facility Tuol Sleng. The ideologies and primacy of the regime are also studied, enabling for the construction of an alternate, or secondary reality, to exist within Tuol Sleng--a secondary reality where the acts of torture and murder become banal tasks for the maintenance of the government. It also goes on to describe the forging of the aesthetic state pursued by Angkar and its similarities to other regimes of terror. It also explains how Angkar shared revolutionary teleology with Mao Tse-tung thought, and more specifically how the peasant was used as an instrument of revolution. Finally, the role of ethnic-nationalism and the anti-Vietnamese sentiment is touched on, and how this ultimately led to the demise of the Khmer Rouge totalitarian political experiment.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2012.
Includes bibliographical references.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/100950
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Political Science



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