Introduction: Landscapes of Monstrosity

Hans Christian Post, László Munteán

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The Cambodian memorials to the Cambodian genocide between 1975 and 1979 can in numerous ways be termed monstrous. Not so much in that they deal with atrocities monstrous in scale and character, as in the monstrous visual means they employ and the imprecise, monster-ridden explanations they deliver. In this they stand in contrast to Holocaust memorial sites in foremost Europe, Israel and the US, where curatorial, representational and aesthetic experiments based on an ethos of not depicting the horror and not delivering simple explanations have for decades predominated; an ethos formulated out of respect for victims and survivors and/or due to a consciousness that the Holocaust represents an event, which in its causes and effects can be neither fully grasped and represented nor isolated in time and space. In Cambodia the rationale on the contrary seems to be to show as much of the horror as possible with no or only little consideration of victims, survivors and visitors, and deliver the starkest, most conclusive explanations possible. Initially, this renders memorial sites in Cambodia highly problematic and unethical. But as the article argues, the sites and their exhibits should maybe be valued for the general truths they hold and more importantly: for the potentials for change they carry. By their monstrous means and violation of the so called Holocaust Bilderverbot-tradition, which has for decades served as ethical guideline in much artistic and curatorial work concerning events of genocide, they highlight dilemmas that all genocide memorial sites and practices ultimately entail, thereby raising anew the question, if there are certain standards and limits worth meeting and focuses worth keeping, when memorial sites are created. At their best the Cambodian memorial sites even deliver forceful answers to these questions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes of Monstrosity
EditorsLászló Munteán, Hans Christian Post
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Publication date2016
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-84888-370-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Cambodian genocide
  • Khmer Rouge
  • genocide memory
  • memory culture
  • memory politics
  • S-21
  • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
  • mug shots
  • Choeung Ek Killing Fields
  • dark tourism
  • genocide consumption


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