The recent rise in Vietnamese American scholarship nationwide reveals that much of previous literature is being challenged and revised as additional nuances of Vietnamese American experiences are being theorized, explored, and described in the 21st century. Despite this, the dominant rhetoric of Vietnamese American Studies focuses on Vietnam War trauma, refugee experiences, nationalism, and post memory (Espiritu 2008, Morag 2006). These dialogues focus upon critical aspects of Vietnamese American experiences, but an important frame of analysis is consistently left out of the discussion: Vietnamese anticommunism. A sustained analysis of Vietnamese anticommunism reveals internal community dynamics that are rarely discussed. Of the literature that mentions Vietnamese anticommunism, very few are critical of the community dynamics produced by anticommunism. As such, I argue that there needs to be additional lenses or approaches toward the critical study of the Vietnamese American community internal politics in order to describe a more complete picture of their experiences.
There is some literature that suggests that the Vietnamese American community “lives in a state of fear. Fear of not adhering to anticommunist dogma, in particular, has placed most Vietnamese Americans in a Foucaldian state of self-monitoring” (Valverde 2012). This state of fear refers the forms of policing over Vietnamese community members, conducted and perpetuated by members of that very same community. There is also literature that describes the gendered forms of control over the Vietnamese female body in the patriarchal community, which manifests itself into a variant of anticommunism (Duong & Pelaud 2012). These studies describe the state of constant fear that members of the community face. In many ways, the communist label is more than simply the shunning of an individual from their friends and family; rather, it is the erasure of the individual’s cultural sense of self. The communist label is able to eradicate all cultural identify, despite how strongly the individual identifies with the Vietnamese refugee or Vietnamese American experience. In light of this, the additional fear of physical or psychological harm is always present. It is a constant force; an uncomfortable sensation that cannot be dismissed or ignored.
As a unique theoretical contribution to the field of Vietnamese American Studies, I argue there needs to be an expansion of the definition of the theoretic scope of terrorism to include the community unit of analysis. Currently, terrorism only encompasses the definitions of national domestic terrorism or terrorism between nation-states. By expanding the scope of this definition, scholars would be able to theorize about Vietnamese American political dynamics on a new level and rigorously define community politics on a new level. Through theorizing “Community Terrorism Studies”, I aim to shift the scholarly discourse on anticommunist protesting, policing, and culture production.
Duong, Lan and Isabelle Thuy Pelaud. “Vietnamese American Art and Community Politics: An Engaged Feminist Perspective”. Journal of Asian American Studies, 15:3, 241-269.
Espiritu, Yen Le. 2008. “About Ghost Stories: The Vietnam War and Rememoration”. Publications of the Modern Language Association, 123, no. 5 (2008 Oct): 1700-1702.
Morag, Raya. 2006. “Defeated Masculinity: Post-Traumatic Cinema in the Aftermath of the Vietnam War”. The Communication Review, 9:3, 189-219.
Nguyen, T. (Director & Producer). 2011. Enforcing the Silence. United States: Birjinder Films.
Tran, Tuyen. Behind the Smoke and Mirrors : The Vietnamese in California, 1975-1994. Diss. University of California, Berkeley, 2007
Valverde, Caroline Kieu-Linh. Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora. Temple University Press, 2012