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The Justice FacadeTrials of Transition in Cambodia$
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Alexander Hinton

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198820949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198820949.001.0001

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Discipline (Uncle Meng and the Trials of the Foreign)

Discipline (Uncle Meng and the Trials of the Foreign)

(p.161) 6 Discipline (Uncle Meng and the Trials of the Foreign)
The Justice Facade

Alexander Laban Hinton

Oxford University Press

“Discipline” explores how the performance of justice, with its associated aesthetics and normative codes, involves disciplines that seek to “translate” discourse, bodily movement, and subjectivity into a juridical form, one that asserts the liberal democratic, right-bearing subjectivity the transitional justice imaginary aspires to produce. Drawing in part on translation theory, this chapter notes that such translation involves power, discourse, control, and a sort of exile as speech and actions are shaped into a form according with juridical order. These attempts to realize the transitional justice imaginary, however, are unable to contain an excess—a surplus of meanings creating cracks in the justice facade—that emerges from the lived experience and understandings of particular actors. These juridical disciplines were manifest at a 2008 Reenactment described in the section preamble, as the victims and defendants were invested with rights and agency that enabled (and constrained) their actions within this juridical performance. They were also evident in the testimony given by another S-21 artist and survivor, Bou Meng, who participated as a civil party in Duch’s trial and is the focus of Chapter 6. In particular, the chapter explores how the court disciplined Bou Meng, “translating” what he said, how he felt, and even how he moved his body into a legalistic form. Despite this juridical canalization, an excess of meaning was evident throughout Bou Meng’s testimony, as illustrated by his invocation of Buddhist understandings and spirit beliefs, including the soul of his wife. This “bushy undergrowth” of meaning is largely occluded by the justice facade even as it remains central to lived experience and practice.

Keywords:   Translation, discipline and punishment, Duch, Bou Meng, S-21 prison, torture, art, “trials of the foreign” and “bushy undergrowth” of meaning, spirits of the dead

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