Khmer Women on the Move offers a fascinating ethnography of young Cambodian women who move from the countryside to work in Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh. Female migration and urban employment are rising, triggered by Cambodia’s transition from a closed socialist system to an open market economy. This book challenges the dominant views of these young rural women—that they are controlled by global economic forces and national development policies or trapped by restrictive customs and Cambodia’s tragic history. The author shows instead how these women shape and influence the processes of change taking place in present-day Cambodia.
Based on field research among women working in the garment industry, prostitution, and street trading, the book explores the complex interplay between their experiences and actions, gender roles, and the broader historical context. The focus on women involved in different kinds of work allows new insight into women’s mobility, highlighting similarities and differences in working conditions and experiences. Young women’s ability to utilize networks of increasing size and complexity allows them to move into and between geographic and social spaces that extend far beyond the village context. Women’s mobility is further expressed in the flexible patterns of behavior that young rural women display when trying to fulfill their own "modern" aspirations along with their family obligations and cultural ideals.