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Conspiratorial Geopolitics and the Bureaucratization of State Power during the Cambodian Genocide

Authors: James Tyner*, Kent State University
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: conspiratorial geopolitics, violence, Cambodia, genocide, bureaucracies
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Between 1975 and 1979 the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK; also known as the ‘Khmer Rouge’) sought to establish a new society governed by a Marxist-Leninist-inspired vision of collective ownership.
In the process, approximately two million men, women, and children perished. Whereas many succumbed to structural violence, including exposure, exhaustion, disease, and starvation, thousands were murdered in a series of purges planned in part to eliminate suspected networks of traitors. In this paper I reconsider the dialectics of conspiratorial geopolitics and conspiracy theories. Here, the former refers to the spatial activities of actual clandestine and covert political groups whereas the former refers pejoratively to the belief in secret machinations of hidden actors, often based on a paranoid imagination. Drawing on the empirical reconstruction of Khmer Rouge purges committed during the genocide, I critically interrogate the bureaucratization of state power as senior members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea conspired to defend their government against envisioned traitorous conspiracies.

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