• 262 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 28 color photos, 6 halftones
  • Price: $29.95
  • EAN: 9781439921777
  • Publication: Aug 2022
  • Price: $99.50
  • EAN: 9781439921760
  • Publication: Aug 2022
  • Price: $29.95
  • EAN: 9781439921784
  • Publication: Aug 2022

Refugee Lifeworlds

The Afterlife of the Cold War in Cambodia

Y-Dang Troeung
  • Finalist for the 2023 PROSE Awards in the Humanities category North American and U.S. History
  • Finalist for the Jim Deva Prize for Writing that Provokes, one of the BC and Yukon Book Prizes

Cambodian history is Cold War history, asserts Y-Dang Troeung in Refugee Lifeworlds. Constructing a genealogy of the afterlife of the Cold War in Cambodia, Troeung mines historical archives and family anecdotes to illuminate the refugee experience, and the enduring impact of war, genocide, and displacement in the lives of Cambodian people.

Troeung, a child of refugees herself, employs a method of autotheory that melds critical theory, autobiography, and textual analysis to examine the work of contemporary artists, filmmakers, and authors. She references a proverb about the Cambodian kapok tree that speaks to the silences, persecutions, and modes of resistance enacted during the Cambodian Genocide, and highlights various literary texts, artworks, and films that seek to document and preserve Cambodian histories nearly extinguished by the Khmer Rouge regime.

Addressing the various artistic responses to prisons and camps, issues of trauma, disability, and aphasia, as well as racism and decolonialism, Refugee Lifeworlds repositions Cambodia within the broader transpacific formation of the Cold War. In doing so, Troeung reframes questions of international complicity and responsibility in ways that implicate us all.


Refugee Lifeworlds is a life-giving book, even as it dwells on war, genocide, and refugee experiences. Y-Dang Troeung has written a remarkable, moving, and courageous work that deserves a wide audience for its inspiring blend of criticism and memoir.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen, University Professor at the University of Southern California, and author of Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War

“To read Refugee Lifeworlds is to have the synapses connect, lighting up the ways that refugee legacies, disability, and mental health have always been meant to speak to each other, but only now can. It is also to meet history anew, as Y-Dang Troeung moves across an astonishing archive of documents, moments, and texts with a close-reader’s care and a storyteller’s grace. This book is stunning—at once beautiful and devastating. It is the work of grieving, so that we may better regroup.”erin Khue Ninh, author of Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities and Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature

Refugee Lifeworlds is a brilliant weaving of epistemological intervention, autofiction as political grievance, and abolitionist knowledge production. Argued with care and beautifully written, this profound book is invaluable for understanding the intersections of war, imperialism, and disability.”—Jasbir K Puar, author of The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability

"(Troeung) incisively illustrates the importance of putting critical refugee studies in conversation with critical disability studies: the book’s main intervention." Journal of Asian American Studies

"Troeung strongly and artfully argues that the so-called Cold War was not cold in Cambodia.... An effective storyteller, Troeung has produced a work of grieving that creatively interweaves discussions of autofiction, autotheory, political grievance, trauma, and disability, including the 'violence of benevolence' of the countries that received Cambodian refugees.... Though not a happy book, this is an excellent one. Summing Up: Highly recommended." Choice

"With this book, the author has compiled an impressive refugee archive depicting the politics of refusal of state violence.... She skillfully connects the autobiographical self with both theory and experiences of gender, race, colonialism, refuge-seeking, survival and family inheritance as sources of knowledge. The result is a highly readable and interesting book."International Institute for Asian Studies

About the Author(s)

Y-Dang Troeung (1980-2022) was an Assistant Professor of English at the University of British Columbia.

In the Series

Asian American History and Culture

Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Shelley Lee, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials and Rick Bonus continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.