Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society Organization Logo Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society

Research Project

Becoming Urban: Understanding the Urban Transformation of Migrants to Phnom Penh

2020 – 2025
A cyclist stands in the street at Central Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Cyclist at Central Market E, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Binh Dang Nam via Unsplash.

Key Question

Project Summary

Through traditional and distributed ethnographic methods, the research team is exploring the lived experiences of Cambodian migrants from rural villages to urban centers; the factors that drove the decision to migrate; and the changes that result from becoming urban.

Research Team

Anni Beukes

Anni Beukes

Urban Researcher

Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation

Anni Beukes is an urban researcher working at the nexus of poverty, populations, and politics. In her research and practice, Beukes draws across disciplinary methods in the social, spatial, and data sciences to generate new data and design knowledge-making processes with young people in urban...

Marco Garrido

Marco Garrido

Associate Professor, Sociology

University of Chicago

Marco Garrido's research focuses on the relationship between the urban poor and middle class in Manila as located in slums and upper- and middle-class enclaves. The project has been to connect this relationship with urban structure on the one hand and political dissensus on the other, and in so...

Alan Kolata

Alan Kolata

Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College

University of Chicago

Kolata Leads ongoing interdisciplinary research projects studying human-environment interactions over the past 3000 years in the Lake Titicaca basin of Bolivia, on the north coast of Peru and most recently in Thailand and Cambodia. His recent research interests include comparative work on...

Monin Nong

Monin Nong

Research Fellow

Centre for Natural Resources and Environment of Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI)

Monin Nong is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Natural Resources and Environment of Cambodia Development Resource Institute (CDRI). His research interests are water hygiene and sanitation, climate change adaptation, gender equality, vulnerability and adaptation assessment, climate change and...

Julio Postigo

Julio Postigo

Assistant Professor of Geography

Indiana University

Julio Postigo's research interests include the synergic effects of climate change and capitalism on rural landscapes and pastoralists; the generation of rural local knowledge for farming decision-making and weather forecasting; and rural institutions and the post-Peace Agreement in Colombia....

Sabina Shaikh

Sabina Shaikh

Senior Instructional Professor and Director of Academic Programs, CEGU

University of Chicago

Sabina Shaikh is a Senior Instructional Professor and the Director of Academic Programs for the Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization (CEGU) in the Division of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. She is the faculty director of Chicago Studies, co-leads the Environmental...

Try Thuon

Try Thuon

Lecturer and Researcher; Fellow, Center for Khmer Studies

Royal University of Phnom Penh

Try Thuon received his PhD in Social Sciences from Chiang Mai University. His research interests include resource politics, water governance, urban climate resilience, informal settlements, urban heritages. His dissertation examines the politic of space making and resilience practices in...

Project Narrative

Reading List

Bairoch, P.

Cities and Economic Development: From the Dawn of History to the Present Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1988 Read

Bylander, M.

“Depending on the Sky: Environmental Distress, Migration, and Coping in Rural Cambodia” International Migration 53, no. 5 (2015): 135–147 Read

Demont, F. and P. Heuveline

Diversity and Change in Cambodian Households, 1998-2006 Journal of Population Research (Canberra) 25, no. 3 (2008): 287–313 Read

Derks, A.

Khmer Women on the Move: Exploring Work and Life in Urban Cambodia Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2008 Read

Evans, A.

“How Cities Erode Gender Inequality: A New Theory and Evidence from Cambodia” Gender & Society 33, no. 6 (2019): 961–984 Read

Garrido, M. Z.

The Patchwork City: Class, Space and Politics in Metro Manila Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2019 Read

Haraway, D. J.

Staying with the Trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016 Read

Heinonen, U.

“Environmental Impact on Migration in Cambodia: Water-related Migration from the Tonle Sap Region” International Journal of Water Resources Development 22, no. 3 (2006): 449–462 Read

Jellinek, L.

The Wheel of Fortune: The History of a Poor Community in Jakarta Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1991 Read

Lefebvre, H.

Marxist Thought and the City Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2016 Read

Peou, C.

“Negotiating Rural-Urban Transformation and Life Course Fluidity: Rural Young People and Urban Sojourn in Contemporary Cambodia" Journal of Rural Studies 44 (2016): 177–186 Read

Sassen, S.

Expulsion: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014 Read

Saunders, D.

Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History Is Reshaping Our World New York: Vintage Books, 2012 Read

Springer, S.

Cambodia’s Neoliberal Order: Violence, Authoritarianism, and the Contestation of Public Space London: Routledge, 2010 Read


Aerial image of Ras al-Silaysil, Jordan

Featured Project

Invisible Landscapes

Continue Exploring

Economic Planning and Democratic Politics: History, Theory, and Practice