University of Colorado at Boulder

Colloquia Event

Friday August 26, 2016. 03:30 pm. GUGG 205

Homelessness in Cambodia: The Violence of Beautification

Simon Springer

Department of Geography, University of Victoria, Canada

This talk examines the plight of homeless peoples in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as a consequence of their enmeshment in a new logic of urban governance being effected by city officials and municipal planners. The widespread adoption of free market economics has produced conditions of globalized urban entrepreneurialism, from which Phnom Penh is clearly not exempt. The (re)production of cultural spectacles, enterprise zones, waterfront development, and privatized forms of local governance all reflect the powerful disciplinary effects of interurban competition as cities aggressively engage in mutually destructive place-marketing policies. In this regard, this talk examines the ongoing pattern of violence utilized by municipal authorities against homeless peoples in Phnom Penh as part of a gentrifying process that the local government has dubbed a ‘beautification’ agenda. Of particular concern is how city officials have begun actively promoting the criminalization of the urban homeless and poor through arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, holding them in ‘re-education’ or ‘rehabilitation’ centres. Yet these centers are not what they seem, where such euphemisms attempt to mask the systemic abuse of marginalized peoples who are unwanted on the streets of the capital city as they are deemed to present a negative image for Phnom Penh.

Speaker Bio: Simon Springer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria, Canada. His research agenda explores the political, social, and geographical exclusions that neoliberalization has engendered, particularly in post-transitional Cambodia, where he emphasizes the spatialities of violence and power. He cultivates a cutting edge theoretical approach to his scholarship by foregrounding both poststructuralist critique and a radical revival of anarchist philosophy. Simon’s books include The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Towards Spatial Emancipation (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), The Discourse of Neoliberalism: An Anatomy of a Powerful Idea (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Violent Neoliberalism: Development, Discourse and Dispossession in Cambodia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and Cambodia’s Neoliberal Order: Violence, Authoritarianism, and the Contestation of Public Space (Routledge, 2010). His edited books include The Handbook of Neoliberalism (Routledge, 2016), The Handbook of Contemporary Cambodia (Routledge, 2016) and the Anarchism, Geography and the Spirit of Revolt trillogy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). He also serves as a co-editor of ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies and the Transforming Capitalism book series published by Rowman & Littlefield.

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