The Project

TEX-KR explores textile production and dress practices in Cambodia from the early 1970s to the early 1980s, especially examining the years of the Khmer Rouge regime. This dictatorship claimed nearly two million lives between 1975 and 1979. In that period, textile ancestral crafts were heavily affected by the halting of sericulture, silk weaving, and skills transmission. Combining object-based study, archival research, and participatory methodologies, this project aims to center textile know-how, artefacts, and clothing practices as crucial material evidence of this dark heritage.

The project is grounded in museum-based research in Cambodia’s leading cultural institutions, namely the National Museum of Cambodia and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The National Museum of Cambodia was closed in the 1970s, and by its reopening in 1979, it had lost three-quarters of its extensive textile collection of precious handcrafted silks. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was established on the secret Khmer Rouge prison site S-21, where about 18,000 prisoners were killed, leaving behind thousands of textiles and clothing remains that have been recently reintegrated into the museum’s collection. Historical research will contextualize the loss and reclamation of these collections as by-products of the Khmer Rouge atrocities, embodying two complementary sides of this traumatic period of human, cultural, and artistic destruction.

TEX-KR aims to develop an innovative sensory methodology incorporating materiality, emotions and memory to study sensitive textile artefacts in a Cambodian context with the potential to inform other histories of conflict.

Dr. Magali An Berthon ©Nicholas Calcott

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Dr Magali An Berthon is a textile historian focusing on the modern and contemporary history of Southeast Asian dress and textiles, with a specific interest in Cambodia. With prior experience in design, curation and documentary, she earned a PhD in History of Design from the Royal College of Art of London with a thesis titled ‘Silk and Post-Conflict Cambodia: Embodied Practices and Global and Local Dynamics of Heritage and Knowledge Transference (1991–2018)’ in 2021. Since January 2022, she is a Marie Curie postdoctoral research fellow attached to the Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen.