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Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam

PhD Candidate in Ecogastronomy, Education, and Society, Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche

Contributing Editor, Platypus: The CASTAC Blog

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About Ashley Thuthao Keng

Ashley "Thao" Dam is a medical anthropologist, budding ethnobotanist, and final year PhD candidate in ecogastronomy, education, and society at Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche in Pollenzo, Italy. Thao's research is focused on Khmer folk food-medicine use and consumption during times of ecological instability in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia.

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Contributions to Platypus: The CASTAC Blog

View all of Ashley Thuthao Keng's posts on Platypus: The CASTAC Blog.

Cambodia in the time of COVID-19: Conceptions, perceptions, and approaches to the novel coronavirus

Editor’s note: This post is the first in our five-part series “COVID-19: Views from the Field.” Click here to read an introduction written by series organizer Rebekah Ciribassi.


When I waved goodbye to my partner at Torino Caselle Airport in northern Italy on February 18th, 2020, I had no idea what was about to happen—people don’t tend to predict the eves of global pandemics. There were no particularly ominous signs to note, and I was heavily focused on the logistics of carrying out my PhD fieldwork in Cambodia.  My research focuses on seasonal variations of the use and consumption of traditional Khmer medicinal plants during maternity by rural women living in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia. My aim is to identify medicinal plants used during different stages of pregnancy, how these medicinal plants are prepared as (or paired with) foods, and what the perceived effects of these traditional food-medicines have on treating symptoms associated with different stages of maternity. In addition to this, I’m also interested in the contemporary role and trajectory of Traditional Khmer Medicine (TKM) within rural community settings and how such traditional knowledge is shared. The overarching goal of this research was to support botanical work being done by the National Herbarium of Cambodia at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, nutrition and dietary research by the NGO Helen Keller International, as well as expand the inter-disciplinary cultural research by the Center for Khmer Studies in my role as a senior research fellow. (more…)