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Plight of Homeless Peoples in Phnom Penh Topic of UW Discussion

August 22, 2016
head portrait of a man
Simon Springer

The plight of homeless peoples in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, because of urban growth, is the topic of a discussion Tuesday, Aug. 30, at the University of Wyoming.

Simon Springer, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria, Canada, will discuss “Beauty Through Order: The Exile and Arbitrary Detention of Cambodia’s Homeless” at 4:30 p.m. in Room 210 of the UW College of Arts and Sciences.

His talk is sponsored by the Milward L. Simpson Fund of Political Science, the Department of Geography, and Global and Area Studies.

Springer will examine Phnom Penh’s homeless people who are being pushed out of the city in a new ordered logic of urban governance being enacted by city officials and municipal planners.

“The widespread adoption of free market economics has produced conditions of globalized urban entrepreneurialism, from which Phnom Penh is clearly not exempt,” Springer says. “The reproduction of cultural spectacles, enterprise zones, waterfront development and privatized forms of local governance all reflect the powerful disciplinary effects of interurban competition as cities aggressively engage in mutually destructive place-marketing policies.”

He will examine the ongoing pattern of violence used by municipal authorities against Phnom Penh’s homeless as part of a gentrifying process that the local government has dubbed a “beautification” agenda.

“Of particular concern is how city officials have begun actively promoting the criminalization of the urban homeless and poor through arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, holding them in ‘re-education’ or ‘rehabilitation’ centers,” Springer adds. “Yet, these centers are not what they seem, where such euphemisms attempt to mask the systemic abuse of marginalized peoples who are unwanted on the streets of the capital city as they are deemed to present a negative image for Phnom Penh.”

His research explores the political, social and geographical exclusions that neoliberalization has engendered, particularly in post-transitional Cambodia, where he emphasizes the spatialities of violence and power. He also is a major figure in the revival of anarchism in human geography.

Springer is the author or editor of several books -- six since 2015 -- and his most recent is “The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Towards Spatial Emancipation.”

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