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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Rumsby

Book Launch: 'Home SOS: Gender, Violence and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia'

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Happy New Year folks! It is great to start the new year with something to look forward to, right? I think so. Next Wednesday (20th Jan 2021) I am getting together with some brilliant panellists to discuss Prof. Katherine Brickell's excellent new book Home SOS: Gender, Violence and Survival in Crisis Ordinary Cambodia.

Join us, you can register your attendance here

Based on over 300 interviews and conducted over 15 years, Home SOS weaves together the accounts of women who have experienced domestic violence and forced eviction to reveal the connectedness between tradition, politics, capitalism and the slow violence they inscribe on women's bodies and the home in Cambodia.

"Homes, marriages, and families are the battlefields of the marketplace that demand great attention" writes Brickell. Reading the book was an emotional journey. The battlefields are so insidiously salient that without Brickell's careful analysis they would remain camouflaged as ordinary life. That's the horrifying thing about the expectations placed on Cambodian women as explained in the book; the violence women endure is masked as altruism, doing their part to help develop the nation, braving the 'crisis ordinary' to keep the family unit together. I have to admit, there were moments when I was reading this book that I was deeply grieved. The threat of shame and alienation which hangs around the necks of women like a heavy stone is overwhelming. As the stories unfold, you begin to understand that the 'survival-work' women engage in is profoundly intimate. The home is revealed as a place where women face a war of attrition against the social and political powers that surround them. Powers that dictate how some people may live and how some must die. Thus, the lifeworlds of women are not just characterised by life - but also death. It is here, reflecting on women's subjective construction of reality that we see the agency of death itself.

In a context of democratic suppression, in the name of development, women who choose to speak out and challenge the social and political powers demonstrate an extraordinary amount of courage as do women who go against the grain of patriarchy to file for divorce. Similarly, women who stay in marriages because they do not have confidence in the laws that are there to protect them, or women who take compensation to avoid becoming penniless after eviction, also demonstrate courage. It is difficult to fully relate to the mental, spiritual, economic and social trauma detailed in women's stories. Yet, as feminists, actually no - as humans! We ought to adopt a similar posture of bravery. To advocate for women unprotected by the law, share our own experiences of violence, and acknowledge that the issues Katherine explores in the book are not unique to Cambodia but represent a global war of attrition on women and the home.

I hope you can join us for what will be a fascinating discussion (Oh, and get your library to order in a copy of this book).

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