Monday, August 20, 2012



As I embark upon my blog tour for Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present, a new mass grave is discovered just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, the former seat of the Angkor Empire. The stunning 12th century temples at Angkor Wat, and the vast Khmer power they represented, were an inspiration to the Khmer Rouge, who in the 1970s hoped to return their country to a similar agrarian utopia, but instead enacted a brutal system of torture, starvation, abuse, and fear—killing between 1.7 and 2.2 million people in the process. Today every Cambodian in the entire nation of Cambodia is a survivor of these mass killings—even those who fled the country and have now returned lost close family members, friends, neighbors, a belief in justice.

It is a country where ghosts—unseen presences, untested consequences—are palpable. Their impact can be seen, the consequences have come about. There’s no questioning whether or not ghosts exist— the questions are why and how and what they want and what can be done to appease them.
But the Khmer Rouge weren’t holding their revolution in vacuum—they were responding in a very direct manner to a series of illegal campaign, including Nixon’s Operation Menu offensive, during which the US dropped several tens of thousands of tons of bombs on the poverty-stricken, neutral country. It’s not fair, you may be saying to yourself. And that is true. 

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia, an attempt some forty years later to seek formal justice against Khmer Rouge leaders, is ongoing, now, slowly. Beleaguered by corruption, apathy, and the disinterest of former members of the Khmer Rouge—including the prime minister himself—in opening up long-ignored avenues of inquiry, the tribunal lags. 

So, too, do deaths by landmine, finally! This year! Down for the first time in as many decades as records have been kept of such things! Many, if not most, are also US-made, a regular reminder of the desire for revolution, even as the country’s former revolutionary leaders go on trial and deny their involvement.

Ghosts—what emerges when space is vacated, what we fear when we think we remain rational—these are real in Cambodia. I’ve attempted to document them in Hip Hop Apsara as an American in Cambodia, a small prayer for lost souls, an ardent wish for a beautiful future. I hope you find it as beautiful and meaningful as I do.

Anne Elizabeth Moore
Author Biography

Anne Elizabeth Moore is a Fulbright scholar, the Truthout columnist behind Ladydrawers:
Gender and Comics in the US, and the author of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom
Penh (Cantankerous Titles, 2011), Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and
the Erosion of Integrity (The New Press, 2007, named a Best Book of the Year by Mother Jones)
and Hey Kidz, Buy This Book (Soft Skull, 2004). Co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct
Punk Planet, and founding editor of the Best American Comics series from Houghton Mifflin,
Moore teaches in the Visual Critical Studies and Art History departments at the School of the Art
Institute of Chicago.
She works with young women in Cambodia on independent media projects, and with people of
all ages and genders on media and gender justice work in the US. Her journalism focuses on the
international garment trade. Moore exhibits her work frequently as conceptual art, and has been
the subject of two documentary films. She has lectured around the world on independent media,
globalization, and women’s labor issues.
The multi-award-winning author has also written for N+1, Good, Snap Judgment, Bitch, the
Progressive, The Onion, Feministing, The Stranger, In These Times, The Boston Phoenix,
and Tin House. She has twice been noted in the Best American Non-Required Reading series.
She has appeared on CNN, WNUR, WFMU, WBEZ, Voice of America, and others. Her work
with young women in Southeast Asia has been featured in USA Today, Phnom Penh Post,
Entertainment Weekly, Time Out Chicago, Make/Shift, Today’s Chicago Woman, Windy City
Times, and Print Magazine, and on GritTV, Radio Australia, and NPR’s Worldview.
Moore recently mounted a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and
participated in Artisterium, Georgia’s annual art invitational. Her upcoming book, Hip Hop
Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present (Green Lantern Press, Aug. 28, 2012), is a lyrical essay in
pictures and words exploring the people of Cambodia’s most rampant economic development in
at least 1,200 years.


Hardcover, $20
ISBN: 978-1-4507-7526-7
Photo/Essay, 100 pages
Green Lantern Press, Aug. 28

The city of Phnom Penh, Cambodia hosts public dance lessons most nights on a newly
revitalized riverfront directly in front of prime minister Hun Sen’s urban home. Shortly before
dusk, much of the city gathers to bust a few Apsara moves and learn a couple choreographed hiphop
steps from a slew of attractive young men at the head of each group. Outside the bustling
capital city, the provinces come alive, too, as the nation’s only all-girl political rock group sets
up concerts that call into question the international garment trade, traditional gender roles, and
agriculture under globalization. Cambodia is changing: not what it once was, not yet what it will
Following on the heels of Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom Penh, Anne Elizabeth
Moore compiled photographs that document Cambodia’s bustling nightlife, the nation’s
emerging middle class, and the ongoing struggle for social justice in the beautiful, war-ravaged
A series of essays complement the imagery, investigating the relationship between public and
private space, mourning and memory, tradition and economic development. It is a document of a
nation caught between states of being, yet still deeply affecting.

Anne Elizabeth Moore, Facebook
Anne Elizabeth Moore, Goodreads

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