Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cambodian Grrrl by Anne Elizabeth Moore

What happens when punk rock feminism travels across international borders?

Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh tells the story of Anne Elizabeth Moore's trip to Cambodia to teach zine making to teenage girls. I saw Anne read at the Olympia Timberland Library before I read Cambodian Grrrl. I remember feeling like the audience for the book was white, privileged Americans and wondered if her reading would have differed had the crowd at the library been more diverse. Reading the book, I questioned how the teenage girls in the book would represent their own experience of the zine-making workshop. Most of all, I wanted to read the zines the girls had created. My favorite part of the book was the epilogue where Moore includes writing by the girls about zine-making.

I came away from the story feeling like zine making as self-publishing is a cultural practice that travels across international borders well because it encourages each person to represent themselves on their own terms. I guess this could be seen as a form of individualism, in that it focuses on art/media/culture as self-expression, but I don't think there is anything necessarily inherent about self-publishing that requires zines be personal. I was drawn to Moore's political writing most of all. As a result, I ended up doing some research on Cambodian history, specifically the Killing Fields, which Moore discusses in the book. The oral history of the Khmer Rouge she captured was powerful.

Moore's recent iteration Independent Youth-Driven Cultural Production in Cambodia (IYDCPC) seems to show the project evolving beyond the per-zine:

"(IYDCPC) is an international institute based in Phnom Penh that encourages multidisciplinary creative responses to issues related to popular culture, with a particular focus on media, advertising, marketing, youth, gender, democracy, human rights, and globalization in Southeast Asia"
I look forward to seeing what happens next and hope to read Cambodian zines someday.

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