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CKS-Luce SEA Research Fellow: A 15-Year Partnership

By Dr. Theara Thun, CKS-Luce SEA Fellow 

I have been an associate of CKS for almost fifteen years. Apart from joining the Junior Resident Fellows Program in 2008, I have participated in four other training programs and fellowships of the Center. The most recent is the CKS-Luce SEA Research Fellowship Program (2022-23), which provides support for my research in the Elizabeth Becker Archive and other materials at the Bophana Center. I have also joined in many other CKS activities such as conferences, workshops, and webinars. This affiliation has provided a unique opportunity to strengthen my intellectual ability in writing and analytical skills, as well as build networks and friendships with many Cambodian and international scholars and institutions. These valuable experiences enabled me to obtain two competitive graduate fellowships, making it possible for me to pursue a master’s Degree in Thailand and a Ph.D. in Singapore and the U.S.

My primary research area is Cambodian and Southeast Asian history, with a specific focus on intellectual history, post-conflict higher education, ethnic politics, and memory studies. I have published six peer-reviewed articles in these areas. My Ph.D. thesis broke new ground on the subject of encounters between Southeast Asian societies and the West by uncovering the active engagements of Khmer scholars with Thai and French colonial history. The thesis was awarded the Wang Gungwu Gold Medal and Prize as the “Best Ph.D. Thesis in the Social Sciences and Humanities,” at the National University of Singapore in 2019. Material from the thesis also won two “Best Paper Awards” and two “Best Presentation Awards” from international graduate student conferences in Hong Kong (2016 and 2017).

My current research under the CKS-Luce SEA Fellowship examines the politics of collective memory of post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia through (auto)biographies, monuments, and films. Aiming to explore the potentiality and limitation of this historical representation, my research is intended to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the Cambodian government’s role in reproducing a cultural memory of mass violence, and how this memory has contributed to a broader collective understanding of the Khmer Rouge among the Cambodian public.

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Theara Thun received the CKS-Luce SEA Fellowship Program in 2022. He obtained his Ph.D. in History under a joint doctoral fellowship program between the National University of Singapore and the Harvard-Yenching Institute. Following his PhD, in 2018, he worked as a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies in the Netherlands and Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Theara Thun
Dr. Thun (second from the left) with other Cambodian
and American students in the CKS Junior Resident
Fellows Program in 2008.

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