Research Stream


Maria Hach
The University of Melbourne

Ana Dragojlovic (2016)
Australian National University

Everyday Traces: Diasporic Hauntings and the Affectivity of Historical Trauma Among Cambodian-Australian Women

The affective force of the Cambodian genocide – a period marked by extreme suffering, death, loss, fear and dislocation – goes beyond spatial, temporal and generational boundaries and is manifested through invisible ‘hauntings’. The generation that followed, who did not directly experience the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge period, embody these traumatic histories through affective, discursive, immaterial and mediated forces.


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My project explores how traces of the Cambodian genocide affectively ‘haunt’ Cambodian-Australian women. I draw upon postcolonial theory, affect theory and feminist studies, to analyse the ways in which Cambodian-Australian women mediate memories and experiences, in relation to broader cultural, social and historical structures and contend that intergenerational trauma, gendered norms, and the politics of racism and belonging shape women’s connections to their Cambodian heritage and Cambodian identities in diverse and crucial ways. My methodology, which includes qualitative in-depth interviews with Cambodian-Australian women is informed by a feminist intersectional approach that foregrounds women’s lived experiences. Yet, this thesis is not only about haunted diasporic subjects; it is also written from the perspective of a haunted diasporic subject. As such, my thesis adopts Avery Gordon’s method of ‘linking imagination and critique’ (Gordon 2008) to interrogate what counts as 'evidence' in academic research. Given my positionality as an ‘insider’ researcher, I use a reflexive, autoethnographic approach to writing in order to disrupt the researcher-subject distinction and challenge conventional modes of storytelling in academia.

Using Avery Gordon’s (2008) theory of ‘haunting’ as an overarching framework, I argue that intergenerational hauntings can provoke affective states that are embodied, yet often indescribable: confusion, guilt, unease, melancholy, sadness, sorrow, pain, pride, gratitude. Importantly, my thesis contends that these affective states are relational, contextually driven, cultural, discursive and continually negotiated. Furthermore, drawing on feminist theories that highlight the productive possibilities of affect, I explore how intergenerational hauntings are sites of possibility that have generative qualities. As illustrated by my participants' narratives, this can be expressed by desires to actively engage with the past, recover histories, and ‘return’ to Cambodia.


Dr Ana Dragojlovic

Image: Still from Rithy Panh’s documentary, ‘The Missing Picture’,