Sunday, May 5, 2013

Eddie Truong - Week 1

I am surprised at the notion that Cambodia would ever think of China as the "benign ally", while Viet Nam is the aggressive neighbor. On the other hand, in Southeast Asian American communities, the idea of a united Southeast Asia unites us and creates a sense of solidarity between ethnic and cultural groups originating from that region. In Brother Enemy: The War After the War, Nayan Chanda reveals a compelling narrative that reconstructs Viet Nam and Cambodia as lifelong enemies. Cambodia looks to China as a shield to protect it from Viet Nam, while Viet Nam looks to emulate China by aggressively expanding its territories to create another "Middle Kingdom". It is clear that the relationship between the three countries is much more complicated than what American mainstream media and scholarship suggests.

This leads me to wonder about the relationship between ethnic groups within the larger umbrella of "Southeast Asian American". I wonder if this sense of community solidarity under this racial category is created by the refugee experience or if the name is a label slapped onto this group by other Americans. If the latter is true, perhaps it is time to rethink the Southeast Asian American experience on different historical terms in order to create a stronger unity or solidarity without ignorance of each group's unique experiences. Southeast Asian American communities need to be aware of how historical influences continue to shape our lives and initiate conflicts in order to better understand the diverse experiences of all ethnic groups within the umbrella.

Here is a video that documents the conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam:

Discussion Question: Do we need to look to past conflicts in Southeast Asia in order to better understand Southeast Asian American communities today?

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