"DISCOVERING" CAMBODIA: VIEWS OF ANGKOR IN FRENCH COLONIAL CAMBODIA (1863-1954)
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This dissertation is an examination of descriptions, writings, and photographic and architectural reproductions of Angkor in Europe and the United States during Cambodia's colonial period, which began in 1863 and lasted until 1953. Using the work of Mary Louise Pratt on colonial era narratives and Mieke Bal on the construction of narratives in museum exhibitions, this examination focuses on the narrative that came to represent Cambodia in Europe and the United States, and is conducted with an eye on what these works expose about their Western, and predominately French, producers. Angkor captured the imagination of readers in France even before the colonial period in Cambodia had officially begun. The posthumously published journals of the naturalist Henri Mouhot brought to the minds of many visions of lost civilizations disintegrating in the jungle. This initial view of Angkor proved to be surprisingly resilient, surviving not only throughout the colonial period, but even to the present day. This dissertation seeks to follow the evolution of the conflation of Cambodia and Angkor in the French "narrative" of Cambodia, from the initial exposures, such as Mouhot's writing, through the close of colonial period. In addition, this dissertation will examine the resilience of this vision of Cambodia in the continued production of this narrative, to the exclusion of the numerous changes that were taking place in the country. Finally, I will be using French colonial archival sources in order to examine measures that were taken by the French colonial administration in order to take greater control over the area that constituted the Angkor Historical Park, and to implement preventative measures and physical alterations designed to keep the view of Angkor aligned with this narrative.
Cambodia; Angkor; French colonial; art history
dissertation or thesis