Postcartes de Cambodge

mickyatesAnthropology, Cambodia, ContextualResearch, Critical Research Journal, Culture, FinalMajorProject, FMPWeek13, History, Ideas, Photography Leave a Comment

I am looking at different ways to include ‘artefacts’ in the BRLSI show. There are several display possibilities, as the venue sometime functions as a museum.

Obviously I already have a fair range of possibilities, but in Paris this past weekend, I found a fascinating shop specialising in historical post cards, showing life in Cambodia and elsewhere in the French colonial world at the turn of the 19th Century.

Governor of Siem Reap and his children, 1906.

Some are interesting examples of ‘colonial / white man’s gaze’.

A cambodian (sic) Woman (sic), 1907.

Many of the cards had messages reflective of those times. I asked on FaceBook for translation help (my French is decent but I struggled with the handwritten script) and got several offers of help. The power of collaboration and of social media. An old friend from my J&J times, Alain Khaiat, obliged with detailed notes and translations.

A cambodian (sic) Woman (sic), 1907.

‘Dear Charles, present to my aunt my best wishes of speedy recovery. Lucien told me about her disease in his last mail. You can count on seeing me during the first fortnight of October, I leave Saigon on 7 September and will not take long to come to Lens. Kiss my big brother and my aunt for me. Your cousin’.

Saigon, 28 June, 1907

And it wasn’t all happy times in Colonial Indochina.

Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh

Saigon, 5 September, 1908

‘Don’t let me worry, I continue to live, what else can I do? What about you? Write to me and let me know, you can’t imagine how much I am interested and enjoy having your news. Another 8 months of campaign to do and then I will be happily back in France. I leave you here, my little cousin, give my affection to your family including your lucky fiancé. Goodbye, your little cousin who would like to be far away from Saigon’.

It is also notable that almost all of the postcards were sent from Saigon, confirming Cambodia’s subsidiary position to Vietnam in the French colonial worldview.

The full set of postcards is here.

Any artefacts that I use need to add to the overall interest and impact of the show, and support the fundamental message around the personal stories during the Khmer Rouge years. The installation will include a short history of Cambodia, to provide audience context for the stories, and it is possible that these cards might work in that section. I will experiment.

In the meantime, I find the cards illustrate a fascinating slice of history, and have just ordered this rather esoteric book.


HOSKINS, Janet. 2007. Postcards from the Edge of Empire. In Photography’s Asian Circuits, International Institute of Asian Studies Journal. NL44 Summer 2007. Available at: (accessed 01/10/2019).

MONTAGUE, Joel G. 2011. Picture Postcards of Cambodia, 1900-1950. Bangkok: White Lotus.

PRINS PATRICK, Cartes Postal Anciennes, Paris.

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