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Svay: A Khmer Village in Cambodia

Svay: A Khmer Village in Cambodia
May Mayko Ebihara
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May Mayko Ebihara (1934–2005) was the first American anthropologist to conduct ethnographic research in Cambodia. Svay provides a remarkably detailed picture of individual villagers and of Khmer social structure and kinship, agriculture, politics, and religion. The world Ebihara described would soon be shattered by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. Fifty percent of the villagers perished in the reign of terror, including those who had been Ebihara's adoptive parents and grandparents during her fieldwork. Never before published as a book, Ebihara’s dissertation served as the foundation for much of our subsequent understanding of Cambodian history, society, and politics.


"Scholars of Cambodia have long regarded May Ebihara's beautiful, meticulously researched thesis as a fundamental work on the country. Making it available in book form to a larger public is a great gift to Cambodian studies."—John Marston, editor of Anthropology and Community in Cambodia

"This book is a finally published foundation of Cambodian ethnography. May Ebihara’s careful observation and clear writing imbue the work with clarity and force."—Erik W. Davis, Macalester College, author of Deathpower

"For more than forty years this luminous, clear-eyed book, now published commercially for the first time, has been an inspiration for anyone interested in the details of Cambodian rural life. Svay is an admirable, thoroughly professional ethnography of a rice-growing village and its people, as Ebihara observed them so astutely in 1959–1960. Now it can also be read as a fond, crisply written, and indispensible eulogy for a badly damaged, disappearing way of life."—David Chandler, author of A History of Cambodia


List of Illustrations

Preface, by Andrew C. Mertha

Introduction, by Judy Ledgerwood


1. Introduction

2. Cambodia as a Whole

3. Village Svay

4. Economic Organization

5. Religion

6. The Life Cycle

7. Political Organization

8. Relations of the Village with the Surrounding World

9. Conclusion

Appendices (9), A–I


Memories of the Pol Pot Era in a Cambodian Village



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