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Ethos

Memory, Trauma, and Embodied Distress: The Management of Disruption in the Stories of Cambodians in Exile

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Abstract

Embodied memories of terror and violence create new meaning and reorder the world, but in doing so they encompass the inexplicable aspects of cultural processes that have allowed the world one lives in to become an unspeakable place, hostile and death-ridden. In this article, we examine the narratives of Cambodian refugees'experiences of the Khmer Rouge regime against the backdrop of an ethnographic study of older Cambodians' lives in an inner-city neighborhood. The stories from this study of 40 Cambodians between the ages of 50 and 79 illustrate the relationship between bodily distress and memory, and between personal history and collective experience. These narratives reveal how people strive to create continuity in their lives but under certain circumstances are unable to do so.

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