Archiving The Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, And The Photographic Record In Cambodia by Michelle Caswell

Archiving The Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, And The Photographic Record In Cambodia

byMichelle Caswell

Paperback | April 1, 2014

not yet rated|write a review

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 195 plum® points

In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


Roughly 1.7 million people died in Cambodia from untreated disease, starvation, and execution during the Khmer Rouge reign of less than four years in the late 1970s. The regime’s brutality has come to be symbolized by the multitude of black-and-white mug shots of prisoners taken at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where thousands of “enemies of the state” were tortured before being sent to the Killing Fields. In Archiving the Unspeakable, Michelle Caswell traces the social life of these photographic records through the lens of archival studies and elucidates how, paradoxically, they have become agents of silence and witnessing, human rights and injustice as they are deployed at various moments in time and space. From their creation as Khmer Rouge administrative records to their transformation beginning in 1979 into museum displays, archival collections, and databases, the mug shots are key components in an ongoing drama of unimaginable human suffering.

Winner, Waldo Gifford Leland Award, Society of American Archivists

Longlist, ICAS Book Prize, International Convention of Asia Scholars

About The Author

Michelle Caswell is an assistant professor of archival studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is also an affiliated faculty member with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Details & Specs

Title:Archiving The Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, And The Photographic Record In CambodiaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:246 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:April 1, 2014Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299297543

ISBN - 13:9780299297541

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Archiving The Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, And The Photographic Record In Cambodia


Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Silence, Agency, and the Social Life of Records
1 The Making of Records
2 The Making of Archives
3 The Making of Narratives
4 The Making of Commodities
Conclusion: The Archival Performance of Human Rights and the Ethics of Looking

Editorial Reviews

“A welcome contribution to scholarship on photography, human rights, and the making of historical memory in Cambodia and beyond. In Caswell’s account, the [Tuol Sleng Prison] archive, its material contents, and history itself are revealed to be open-ended processes rather than fixed contents. Like the struggle to hold perpetrators accountable, remember the victims, and rebuild a devastated country, the photographs of Tuol Sleng remain unfinished.”—Pacific Affairs Book Review