The ethical speaking of objects: ethics and the 'object-ive' world of Khmer Rouge young comrades

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Discussions of the ethics of organization are often based on crucial but mostly abstract categories. The role of these categories is not contested here but, in line with a sociomaterial view of organizations, we suggest that objects also participate in ethical processes and that they fulfil a number of important roles in the social construction of ethics. We study this possibility via the extreme case of young Khmer Rouge combatants participating in two operational units (elite Division 703 and the S-21 death camp), and discuss how objects played critical roles in connecting macro-ideological and micro-individual dimensions with ethical relevance. We suggest that objects conveyed ethical meaning and that they initially offered opportunities to validate, materially, the Khmer Rouge ideology amongst this group and to justify their genocidal action. At a later stage, they evidenced the impossibility of escape from the totalitarian gaze of the Ângkar. Ethics, we conclude, partly speak through objects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-61
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Political Power
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • ethics of objects
  • Khmer Rouge
  • objectual agency
  • sociomateriality


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