Competing Hegemonies. Foreign-dominated processes of development in Cambodia
10 / 2009 - 09 / 2014
This research program addresses foreign-dominated processes of development in Cambodia, in particular economic growth and democratization and, thereby, aims at contributing to critical globalization scholarship. The context within which these processes obtain their significance is shaped by current Western practices of promoting good governance and the increasing presence of investors from the South. Cambodia constitutes a battlefield for influence of outside actors, as competing models of development emerge from the partly conflicting and partly converging interests and practices of international and local NGOs and community-based organizations, foreign investors from emerging economies and their partnerships with Cambodian actors (political elites and local entrepreneurs), and transnational networks of Cambodian returnees and the revitalized ethnic Chinese business community. The central question of the research program addresses the ways in which the diverging worldviews and interests of foreign hegemonies and related diasporic groups affect both the formation of a civil society and the development of a sustainable economy against the background of inconsistent government policies and patron-client relationships. The methodology that integrates the different projects under this program is participatory on the one hand and heuristic on the other. The participative approach is informed by action research which is inclusive, emphasizing the integration of action and reflection. Systematic and intensive stakeholder involvement will be an integral part of the process of data-generation, theory-building and dissemination of findings throughout the program. In terms of the heuristic approach, the program employs triangulation: the combination of several research methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon by combining multiple theories, methods, and empirical data with the purpose of overcoming the weaknesses and biases that are integral to single-method, single-theory studies. The innovative dimension of this approach is that research will be an incessant process providing a learning environment for all parties involved and developing a knowledge network which is to continue after the program is finished. This approach opens an avenue for empirically based and socially embedded theory on hitherto neglected dimensions of globalization, involving those who have been overlooked as stakeholder (diverse diasporic groups) and, at the same time, those who work towards similar goals without taking notice of each other (civil society and private sector). The inclusion of academics and stakeholders in the research process and the joint development of a virtual knowledge network will make a unique and necessary contribution to capacity building and social change in Cambodia.