Pathways to Leadership within and beyond Cambodian Civil Society: Elite Status and Boundary-Crossing

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Pathways to Leadership within and beyond Cambodian Civil Society: Elite Status and Boundary-Crossing


  • Astrid Norén-Nilsson Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University, Sweden
  • Netra Eng Cambodia Development Resource Institute, Cambodia


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Abstract:  Elitisation in Cambodian civil society and how such processes relate to holding elite status in the state, electoral politics, and economic fields, is poorly understood. This article seeks to identify different pathways to becoming an elite within and beyond Cambodian civil society. We focus on four case studies, representing different forms of organisations within the sectors of agriculture and youth. Three main questions are explored. Firstly, we identify different forms of capital needed to reach elite status in civil society. Secondly, we explore how elite status within civil society is related to elite status within other fields, by identifying three pathways of boundary-crossing (Lewis, 2008a) from civil society into the state, electoral politics, and economic fields. Thirdly, we map the perceived possibilities and limitations of each field. In exploring these questions, this article argues for a reappraisal of Cambodian civil society, shifting attention to the networks and platforms that fall outside of the dominant focus on professional NGOs. By empirically tracing how elites move between fields, it aspires to provide a better understanding of the contours of, and relations between, civil society and other fields (including government, electoral politics, and business), including in terms of what particular forms of power pertain to each.

Keywords:  boundary-crossing; Cambodia; civil society; elites; leadership

Published:   4 September 2020


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v8i3.3020


© Astrid Norén-Nilsson, Netra Eng. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.