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The Cham, Akhar Thrah Scholars and ‘Remembering the Boundaries’ from 1651 to 1969 by William B. Noseworthy

After 11 months archival and field research in Cambodia and Vietnam this talk focuses upon the history of the Cham population in these two states from the period between 1651 and 1969. The first aim of the talk is to explain why these two years are used as the watershed moments of the study. The talk then explains the historical geography of the Cham population, before moving into the major tropes of the history of Cambodia’s largest linguistic minority population. By shifting the emphasis to the history of an ethnic group, to the history of a language community, this talk demonstrates the complexities of Cham social structures that developed in light of the Vietnamese conquest of their territory that was completed by the nineteenth century. In light of this conquest, different communities adapted gradients of religious and cultural practices that were aimed to suit their position in various locations. Across this borderlands region, there was also the development of attempts by ‘state’ authorities also attempted to redraw the lines of the Cham community, with little to no impact in some cases, or, in the most severe cases, resulting in disaster.

Meanwhile, by the 1960s new strategies of institutionalization were adapted by the Cham communities themselves. This presentation argues that the strategy of institutionalization while allowing for diversity was critical to the survival of the Cham culture in Vietnam and Cambodia.

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