International Feminist Journal of Politics, vol. 13, no. 1

 In recent years, a growing, though still limited, body of literature has begun to coalesce around the realities and complexities of women’s lives in contemporary Cambodia.

 In recent years, a growing, though still limited, body of literature has begun to coalesce around the realities and complexities of women’s lives in contemporary Cambodia. Reflecting, and contributing to this scholarly expansion of interest is the work of Mona Lilja, which centres on the social worlds of female politicians over the age of 40 in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh. The book is particularly novel in its focus on practices of resistance which are enacted by individuals, rather than through collective action via revolutions, strikes and boycotts. Evoking amore embodied approach to resistance as performance, Lilja explores how Cambodian female politicians ‘play’ with their identities, representations and discourses in order to alter stereotypes and hierarchies which tend to guard against their full participation in political life.

While having some inherent deficiencies, the book nevertheless makes a much needed analytical contribution to studies of ‘power’ in Cambodia and in doing so, complements the more historically oriented work of Trudy Jacobsen (2008) on this topic (also published by NIAS Press). Lilja’s work is conceptually rigorous, using in a sophisticated manner the work of theorists such as Foucault, Bourdieu, Butler and Bhabha. In this way, Power, Resistance and Women Politicians in Cambodia is an important corrective to much work on Cambodia that has failed to connect its analyses to mainstream and current developments in theory.

 

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