This critical international civic engagement course engages the perils, paradoxes, and promises of contemporary Cambodia by combining intensive experiential learning with an academically rigorous examination of the politics of international development that make up the Cambodian present. Based in the city of Siem Reap on the northeast tip of the Tonle Sap (the Great Lake), students will participate in academic seminar and field-based projects in partnership with local community organizations working on issues of education, poverty, healthcare, and housing. The field-based projects are purposefully designed to facilitate a deeper understanding of the interplay between seminar readings, and what students will see, hear, smell, eat, learn, do and feel when they are on the ground in various community sites. Students are exposed to people working under the auspices of “development” from a range of social positions and official posts –advocates, teachers, staff at NGOs, government agents, parents, students, journalists, support staff for various projects—and from international and domestic agencies.
The course also includes the opportunity to learn basic conversational Khmer, take guided tours of several cultural attractions (Angkor Wat, the Landmine Museum, Kulen Mountain, and others), and participate in two multi-day excursions to remote communities in the countryside (Koh Ker and Ratanakiri). Taken together, these range of experiences provide an intimate and compelling frame through which to contemplate development efforts in Cambodia through the themes of internationalism and globalization, inequality, power, knowledge construction, democracy, human rights, and local politics.