Geography Knows No Boundaries

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Khao I Dang Refugee Camp (1979–1993)
Hudson McFann

Using archival research, oral history interviews, and participatory mapping, my dissertation project explores the history and legacies of the Khao I Dang camp for Cambodian refugees. Established near the Thai–Cambodian border by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the wake of the Cambodian genocide, Khao I Dang had a peak population of 140,000 and was, in many ways, the hub of the Cambodian relief operation.

I am studying how the camp was planned, designed, administered, and experienced by UN officials, relief workers, and refugees, with a focus on the uptake, translation, and reworking of urban planning and development paradigms in Khao I Dang—including notions of citizen participation, empowerment, self-reliance, and community development. I further consider how the relief effort at the Thai–Cambodian border, and particularly in Khao I Dang, has impacted the development of major humanitarian standards and guidelines. In addition to my written dissertation, I am working on a web-based project called “Rebuilding Khao I Dang” ( to digitally reconstruct the camp in a variety of ways, including through the creation of interactive maps.

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