Stéphanie-Benzaquen Gautier to defend her PhD on imagery of Khmer Rouge atrocities

Stéphanie Benzaquen-Gautier

On 22 December, Stephanie Benzaquen-Gautier will defend her PhD thesis, entitled 'Images of Khmer Rouge Atrocities, 1975-2015. Visualizing the Crimes of Pol Pots' Regime in Transnational Contexts of Memory'. All who are interested are welcome to attend the ceremony.

Violent transformation of Cambodian society

The Khmer Rouge or Communist Party of Kampuchea came to power in April 1975 in the context of the Second Indochina War. Through extreme violence the new leadership implemented a radical transformation of Cambodian society, the effects of which keep affecting the population at many levels until today. This situation shapes to a great extent the understanding and recollection of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and abroad.

Visual history of Pol Pot's regime

Benzaquen-Gautier's study looks at forty years of visualization of Khmer Rouge atrocities. On the basis of a selected set of documentary and artistic images, she examines and historicizes “ways of seeing” the crimes of the Pol Pot’s regime in a changing memory landscape engaging the socialist, non-socialist, and post-socialist worlds and different interpretations of the notion of 'postcolonial'. It situates the analysis in a transnational realm emphasizing the interaction of Cambodians and non-Cambodians in the production and circulation of visual material.


Through five empirical cases, this study clarifies the different processes of transnational memorialization of Khmer Rouge atrocities that have been taking place in the visual realm over the past decades: on the one hand, the multiplication and diversification of stakeholders, media of expression, and narratives attached to images; on the other hand, the centralization and institutionalization of memory through monopolies, claims over ownership and legitimacy, and the establishment of new structures of participation. Benzaquen-Gautier also points at the long process still ahead before Khmer Rouge-related visual culture becomes a disciplinary field providing, beyond reductionist images, a deeper understanding of what happened in Cambodia.

In a more general sense, this study shows the impact of iconic representations on our understanding and recollection of genocide: the role of visual culture itself in creating the invisibility and non-representability of mass atrocities as well as the violence of memory politics itself in the present.

More information about Stéphanie's research can also be found on her profile-page at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)-website.


Practical information

The public defense will take place on December 22, 2016 at 15:30h in the Senaatzaal at the Aula of the Erasmus University Rotterdam (address: Burgemeester Oudlaan 50, 3062 PA Rotterdam).

The digital version of Stéphanie's thesis will be available shortly after the defense at the Erasmus University Rotterdam's institutional repository (RePub). As the permanent internet-address (URL) is not available yet, this link already shows the abstract and later on will show the RePub address.

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