Biography Of Daniel Goldhagen 's ' First They Killed My Father ' Essay

Biography Of Daniel Goldhagen 's ' First They Killed My Father ' Essay

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Daniel Goldhagen (2009) states that in less than four years, Cambodia’s political leaders induced their followers to turn Cambodia’s backwards and regressing society into a massive concentration camp in which they steadily killed victims. Furthermore, a deeper understanding of the Cambodian genocide is provided within Luong Ung’s personal narrative, “First They Killed My Father” (2000). Ung’s memoir is a riveting account of the Cambodian genocide, which provides readers with a personalized account of her family’s experience during the genocide. She informs readers of the causes of the Cambodian genocide and she specifies the various eliminationist techniques used to produce the ideological Khmer vision. Nonetheless, she falls short because she is unable to provide the underlying details responsible for the genocide, particularly the role of perpetrators.
Unlike Goldhagen who attempts to create a framework to explain the causes of genocide and a broad category of various eliminationist techniques, Ung’s (2000) narrative is “a story of survival” (xi) dictating her families’ personal experience during the genocide. Ung (2000) mentions that victims, including herself and her family, experienced depersonalization; whereby, all members in her camp system were forced to dress and style their hair the same way to rid themselves “of the corrupt Western culture of vanity” (Ung 2000:58). The compliance to the orders guarantees their safety for the time being (Ung 2000). Furthermore, all victims were forced to adopt a suspicious attitude. In fact, Ung (2000) mentions that “hunger and fear make people turn against one another” (54). This exemplifies a culture where “[f]riendship does not matter” and all victims must take their own precaution...


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...d out against anyone perceived as a threat to the state’s vision (Ung 2000). The exterminationist techniques outlined within Ung’s memoir resembles the tactics outlined by Goldhagen; however, Ung provides a deeper understanding of the tactics through her experiences during the genocide.
In conclusion, Ung’s memoir provides readers with a deeper understanding of the Cambodian genocide because she recounts her individual experience; thus, allowing readers to understand the genocide at a personal level rather than through Goldhagen’s broad theory of eliminationism. Her experience within the camps gives meaning to Goldhagen’s theory because it provides the theoretical framework with examples. Nonetheless, the role of perpetrators in setting the genocide into motion remains unclear within her novel; despite the fact that they are responsible for initiating the genocide.

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