Saturday, May 31, 2014

Week 10 - Viet Nam War as Concept Conclusion

Viet Thanh Nguyen - Refugee Memories and Asian American Critique

The article calls for a transnational and globalized framework to be incorporated when analyzing and examining diasporas outside of the homeland. The refugee’s point of view won’t match and converge with the experiences of successive generations who winded up growing up in a different era, place, and circumstances. I do not think that Asian American Studies do not accurately analyze the Southeast Asian experience because it’s experience is uniquely different from the rest of the ethnic experiences within the pan-ethnic identity of Asian American.
The author speaks of the Southeast Asians and Southeast Asian Americans  that are “the kind of subjugated and voiceless people that have inspired Asian American Studies and for whom it has always advocated” (922). Are the Southeast Asians really voiceless? I feel that the Southeast Asians are vocal about their needs and issues but no one is listening. They have a story and a past that many are willing to tell but there doesn’t seem to be someone to listen to their grievances especially since they are a smaller population within the Asian American panethnic identity. The disproportionate make up of the differing ethnic communities within the Asian American identity doesn’t allow for the voices of the Southeast Asians to be heard. Instead, the voices of the East Asians , the larger group, tends to be more prevalent. Southeast Asians do have a voice but they are not being heard. It may be the language barrier faced by the Southeast Asians that are preventing their voices from being heard or even listened to. If the Southeast Asians did not have a voice, the Vietnamese diaspora would not be mobilizing to gain support for Madison Nguyen in her electoral race for Mayor of San Jose. The mobilization of the Vietnamese diaspora is not representative of the Southeast Asian community as a whole as evidence that they have a voice as a whole but there are times and certain ethnic groups that have a voice but they may or may not utilize.
“In identity-based forms of academic study, subject and object tend to converge--hence women study women...etc” (pg 927). I think this is something that cannot be avoided because there would not be someone else who would better understand the identity and better study it than the person who identifies similarly. It is similar to the reading in which we talked about how researchers can only do so much in comparison to the natives who provide the information to the researchers. The researchers will not be able to get the whole story if they have not lived it or even experience it. Only the natives and those who have experienced it will be able to better understand and analyze the experiences and identities. However, I do recognize that biases can easily arise from such a method of researching and analysis of an identity that you may have connections with.

Mark Beeson - U.S Hegemony And Southeast Asia

           In the article U.S Hegemony and Southeast Asia, Mark Beeson argues that U.S.'s foreign policies may be weakening it's hegemonic role in the Southeast Asian countries. As stated, U.S. has been a very influential participant in foreign affairs, especially when it comes to financial affairs. Post-Cold War, during the financial crisis, U.S. influences in foreign financial affairs stirred opposition from third world countries, such as Indonesia and Thailand. Although there were opposition from civilians and the middle classes in these countries, they were shortly lived or weren't significant due to limitations from authoritative government and resources.
           Southeast Asia is invested by three major powers: United States, China, and Japan. The constant pushing and yielding between these three powers is one major factor determining the outcome and further actions of the Southeast Asian countries.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been pushing a globalization of democratic implementations. Unfortunately to the U.S.'s agenda of spreading democracy to implement their policies, many of the Southeast Asian countries are showing favor towards the idea of democracy or semi-democracy. United States hegemonic influences in the Southeast Asia regions are proving to be a failure, as US's approach becomes unilateral, relying mostly on military powers to implement their superiority. This proved to be true as the war on terror was declared by the United States became a direct warning message to many groups that may have any kind of connections with terrorist groups. Instead of institutionalizing multilateral orders with globalization and influencing political and economic activities like they were doing right after the Cold War, the US is announcing their hegemonic agenda through violent military powers. Although the elites of Southeast Asia still show support in favor of U.S. military involvement in Asia, many are beginning to recognize that the policies influenced by U.S. may hinder their development. Thus, Fareed Zarkaria predicts that “anti-Americanism will become the global language of protest”. (Beeson, 457).
           I agree with Mark Beeson when he argued that U.S.'s hegemonic position is fading. The idea of U.S.'s hegemony declining has been a topic of discussion this decade. With the world powers China and India quickly climbing up behind, U.S. is not in its best financial condition to compete in the upcoming years. Now, the question would be, is a decline in U.S. hegemony bad? Southeast Asian countries' future actions will depend on the wavering hegemonic power of the United States to China. Recently, many people are beginning to question how China hegemony would change international political and economic policies and it's possible effect on southeast asian countries.
           Below is a video of a discussion of United State's agenda for pushing democracy as a hegemonic power in the the Middle east and Asia. 
RT. "CrossTalk: Exporting freedom or Imposing Hegemony?." YouTube. 5 Nov. 2012. Web. 31 May. 2014.

Discussion Questions:
1. “This cessation can take place with either the full integration of Asian Americans into the United States via the eradication of racial difference, or with the end of US identity, period” (922). The article speaks of the cessation of the Asian American identity, what would be the consequences or outcomes of such a cessation? What would the end of a US identity look like?
2. Who are the current scholars of Southeast Asians and what direction are they heading towards in terms of their scholarship? 
3. How would Southeast Asian Studies and Southeast Asian American Studies be combined when the perspectives come from different sources? 
4. How does the Asian American studies critique's notion of justice clash with the Southeast Asians, as refugees, notions of justice? If there is a contradiction between the two's notions of justice, can they be reconciled? 
5.  What is the refugee critique and what are some of its flaws in critiquing the refugee experience? 
6. What are the pros and cons of a decline in U.S. hegemony?
7. In what ways were Southeast Asian countries affected by U.S. hegemony?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Week 8 – May 22 and 22 Diasporic Experiences and Transnational Processes

                In the documentary, “Saigon USA,” directors Lindsey and Robert Winn takes the audience through the daily lives of many Vietnamese Americans. Not only do we get a glimpse of their lives in the United States, but we also see the struggles that they face. “Saigon USA” shows the differences between the Vietnamese within the US and how these groups have different ideas and history with the nation-state.  For example, in 1999 a video rental shop owner in Westminister, California caused uproar within the Vietnamese community for hanging up a poster of Ho Chi Minh inside his store. The owner believed that Vietnam was better off under communist rule, which many Vietnamese members of the community took offense to. People of the older generation that have lived through the struggles in Vietnam during the time of Ho Chi Minh regime were especially offended by this act. On the other hand,  younger Vietnamese Americans thought these older members were being too uptight and they did not truly understand as why they were so upset about a mere poster. This shows the differences not only within the ethnic group themselves, but even within generations of people. We can also see the generational difference in the Vietnamese American diaspora in the example shown in the documentary where a UCI student by the name of Bao joined a protest wearing a shirt with,” American Gook” written on it.  They wanted to let people know that they were not, “gooks” but they were Americans. This was misinterpreted as someone in the crowd yelled that, “gook means communist.” This caused confusion between the older and younger generation, especially because there was also a language barrier between the two. People took Bao’s intentions the wrong way and him and his group was shoved and pushed from the protest. 

                Although they are now residing in the United States, many citizens still have transnational ties with their Southeast Asian home country. Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora, by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, define transnationalism and explores what it truly means to live in a diasporic community while having ties with the homeland. The largest influence from the home country is definitely cultural norms and ideals. In Vietnam, the belief of filial piety is a vibrant and strong ideal and many Vietnamese Americans have taken this notion with them. We can also see that the home country is also trying to keep ties with their diasporic groups.  Before, Vietnamese who left after 1975 were grouped as the My Nguy which meant American puppets. Now they are referred to as the Kieu Bao, which has a more pleasant and positive connotation meaning people from the same womb. By doing this, the Vietnamese are able to keep connections with the Vietnamese Americans without insulting them. Author Valverde also describes how these diasporic communities are able to keep their networks with their home country through the media and advancement of technology.  A popular show amongst the Vietnamese American community is Paris By Night, a show that features singers and celebrities singing and doing skits. Often times, the songs performed on the shows are songs from the wartime that many of the Vietnamese Americans have lived through. 
                Valverde also discusses her own experience in Vietnam and how it relates to the Vietnamese diaspora. An online virtual community called the VN Forum allowed people in Vietnam and in the United States to write and post their differing political views. One major thing that sparked from the VN Forum was the, “No Nike” campaign by Thuyen Nguyen. As a member of the forum, he posted about the inhumane treatment of workers at the Nike factory in Vietnam.  He even traveled all the way to Vietnam to visit the Nike factory to unveil the cruel, harsh working conditions these people were in. His postings drawn in attention from both Vietnamese Americans and Vietnamese people.  This shows that even though Vietnamese Americans are no longer living in their home country, they still care and still have compassion for their people in the homeland. It shows how these diasporic groups can be heavily involved with their home nation-state’s politics while being away.  It also shows how these people can work together to better their homeland. 

                Lastly, in  Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora, Valverde discusses the misconceptions in the Vietnamese American community with artist Chau Huynh’s artwork. Her work showed a pedicure basin plugged into a wall which as she explained was to pay tribute to all the Vietnamese women working in the United States and sending money back to the families in Vietnam. This was misinterpreted by people and it eventually even ended up on a popular Vietnamese newspaper back in Vietnam. It caused controversy because her work was misunderstood. Many times, notions are misinterpreted and misunderstood within the diasporic groups due to language barrier, cultural differences, and generational differences.  This can be seen in both the documentary, Saigon USA and in the book by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora.

Cheyenne Wong

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 7: Ancient History of Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos

South East Asian countries have had a long bearing history of relations with China that have impacted them culturally, socially, and politically. Nayan Chanda's Brother Enemy: The War After the War and Sucheng Chan's Vietnam Before the Mid-nineteenth Century, essentially describe to us the history of Vietnam and its relationships with other countries to lead it to where it is today. Through all of the trials and tribulations that it faced, we are able to see how this small country came to be. According to Chanda, both Vietnam and Cambodia turned to China for protection from outside threats. However, Cambodia accepted China as its protector, whereas Vietnam resisted the Chinese control. Vietnam sought authority on the boarders of Southern China and they also wanted to maintain an alliance among Laos and Cambodia, which initiated a persistent disapproval for many decades from China, the communist country.

Sucheng Chan essentially describes to us the history of Vietnam and how it came to be through all of the trials and tribulations it faced. According to this article, many Vietnamese individuals claim to be ancestors of the "Lac" people, who originated from the Hong River Vally. However, scholars have revealed that the "Lac" were only one of the many ethnic groups that merged to form the Vietnamese people. In truth, Vietnam was heavily influenced by the Chinese, despite their paradoxical relationship. After fighting off the Chinese and gaining their freedom, Vietnam actually adapted many of the Chinese social, cultural, and political institutional forms because they liked the Confucian ideologies and saw it useful for exerting social and political over their subjects. Throughout this article, we are presented with the different countries and world powers that colonized and invaded Vietnam and we are introduced to the history of Vietnam and how it expanded over time. The trials and tribulations of being invaded and colonized really put a strain on the Vietnamese individuals. We are presented with instances such as the Le Code, where Buddhism and Taoism lost their standing and Confucianism reigned supreme. Then we are also faced with the Catholic missionaries and their attempt to convert Vietnam to Catholicism, and how they were persecuted, imprisoned, and ran out by the Nguyen Dynasty. 

In Gary Yia Lee's Disapora and the Predicament of Origins: Interrogating Hmong Postcolonial History and Identity, we are presented with the fact that the history and identity of the Hmong have been ambiguous in social and political narratives that search for their origin and individuality. The Hmong have directly been under Chinese rule in Southern China and Western colonial and neo-colonial rule when they migrated to Indochina. The Hmong history has repeatedly been perceived and written about from outside perspectives that revolve around their regional residence in China and Indochina. They too have been recognized directly under an umbrealla term known as "Miao" by the Chinese. This identification, however, has allowed confusion and uncetainty with defining the Hmong identity since Miao groups acquired layers of differences and histories of their own. After fleeing Laos and Southeast Asia, Hmong has been used as a term of identification. Those outside of South China find the term "Miao" offensive for it's derogatory meaning of "cat." The co-ethnics in South China, however accept this term. In order to critically understand the Hmong history, it is of essence to include the social and political narratives of the Hmong. This understanding will relay its' significance into conversations with the Hmong and scholarship, to provide accurate depictions of their identity and history. 

Authority and colonialism are prime themes in understanding the history of Southeast Asia as a region sought to be overpowered. China also plays a significant role in the history as their supremacy had an influence in these specific countries. As Gary Yia Lee states, the Hmong have roots that connect them to the rule of China that ultimately led to their displacement mainly to Southeast Asia. The aftermath of the Vietnam War once again displaced the Hmong to different parts of the world seeking refuge while many Hmong still reside in Southeast Asia, mainly in China. This separation has caused a conflicting view on signifying a clear identity of the Miao/Hmong groups in postcolonial terms and this conflict reveals how the history of Southeast Asia and the role of colonialism have impacted the identity of the Miao/Hmong people due to the physical relocation, which results in a new ethnic label for identification. According to Chan and Chanda, Vietnam has had its fair share of also being influenced by China who has also provided strong Confucian ideologies for Vietnam to inherit. Vietnam's efforts to maintain their independence led the Vietnamese to endure colonialism and post-colonial effects that have affected the inhabitants and those in diaspora. The people affected have resulted in relocating, re-creating their identities and also resulted in many natives to take political positions. This history help us rethink about how contemporary borders and ethnic labels are created by the persistent struggles Southeast Asian countries endure in resisting colonial and imperial rule. These countries, such as Vietnam, sought independence which neighboring country China grew strongly opposed to which initiated a history that involved deaths, and losses of culture, identity, and homes.

1. Ancient History of Southeast Asia revolve around the themes of authority, displacement, and ethnic identity. How do these themes present a critical view on how Southeast Asian has been structurally created? 
2. Taking the history of Southeast Asia into consideration, how has the term of Southeast Asia been constructed and what does the umbrella term impose on these countries and people? 
3. Now knowing more about the history of Vietnam and its' relationship to other Southeast Asian countries, how possible do you think it is to stand together in solidarity against oppression (keeping in mind the bad blood between certain Southeast Asian ethnic groups)?
4. If religion was not a factor for colonization or invasion of Vietnam, would there be other reasons or influences for these other countries to invade?
5. Compare and contrast the role of China and the U.S. in Southeast Asia. 

Works Cited:

Chanda, Nayan. Brother Enemy: The War After the War.

Gary Yia Lee. “Diaspora and the Predicament of Origins: Interrogating Hmong Postcolonial History and Identity.”

"Vietnamese History - Eng Sub (Story of an S-shaped Country)." YouTube. YouTube, 17 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 May 2014. <>.
"WHO ARE THE HMONG." YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 May 2014. <>.
Blog by: Nancy Fang and Nancy Le

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Week 6: Third World Alliances and Movements

In many significant events, Asian Pacific Islander Americans have little to no recognition in their contributions. The reading and documentary reveal the legacies, lessons, and effects of the contradicting stereotypical images of Asian Americans, especially those who have served in the war.
In the reading About Face: Recognizing Asian & Pacific American Vietnam Veterans in Asian American Studies by Peter Nien-Chu Kiang, various issues regarding these veterans arise from the often censored or unpublished primary and secondary sources.
There was a strong connection felt with other soldiers of color especially with African Americans as both groups have experienced racism in the military. The solidarities that were established between veterans of color on the battlefield were transplanted to the United States. As a result of all the stresses from the Vietnam War stemming from racism in the military, war experience in general against their “Third World brothers”, and the internal conflicts regarding the morality upwards of 30.6% of all male and 26.9% of all female Vietnam theater veterans have at one point suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The war that was thought to bring peace and anti-Communism has created interracial separation and detrimental effects as well.
In the documentary Aoki, ethnic solidarity seemed highly prevalent for community mobility. Richard Aoki, who was a well-recognized Asian American figure and a member of the Black Panther Party, was a huge civil rights activist and a leader in our community. His views of the United States institutional systems has created much controversy within the American society, however unlike many Asian Americans, he voiced his opinions without fear and what he believed was right. He was a radical Asian American leader who brought voice to communities and gathered them together.
At a young age, Richard had experienced American “prison” known to many as the Japanese concentration camp and served time in the military which gave him an unexpected, peculiar view of the American society. The documentary talked about how the police were using soldiers, like Richard, as tools to “utilize and murder” others such as in the Vietnam War. This made him want to speak up for what was just and serve as a voice on behalf of his communities. His straight-forward, unfiltered dictation gave a sense of gathering among the people as he was honest about his thoughts. Having gone through a war-time decade, he left a legacy as “the baddest Oriental in West Oakland” and was a well-known figure within the bay area. Everywhere he went, his demeanor was well respected and no one questioned his presence. That was a figure worth representing for our Asian American community and ethnic solidarity.

The sharing of these experiences add  to our understanding of the historic relationship between the legacy of war in Asia and American views of Asians as the enemy which is by the forced annexation of the Philippines,  the Korean War, etc. The lessons learned have left a legacy of more critically thinking Asian & Pacific American communities who have since then more intensely fought for more recognition and entitlements to their rights. This has been done by both veterans and the communities in general, as all have experienced marginalization because of their identity as Asian and Pacific Americans. This recognized inequality is still being fought for today until the democracy that this country promises is made a reality.

Documentary: “Aoki,” Directors Mike Cheng and Ben Wang (2009).
Kiang, Peter, “About Face: Recognizing Asian & Pacific American: Vietnam Veterans in Asian American Studies.”
N.d. Web. 03 May 2014. <>.

N.d. Word Press. Web. 03 May 2014. <>.

1) What are the pros and cons of ethnic solidarity across different communities? How can we use it to mobilize?
2) How is it different in community organizing in the past vs. today? Show some examples.
3) What are some of the post-war effects on the soldiers who served in the military? How about the effects it had on their families (Amerasian families, families back home, etc)?
4) What are some overlook aspects of the Vietnam War veterans and families affected by the Vietnam War?
5) How can you now interpret war and the real reason why we have war, such as the Vietnam War?

By: Claudine Sanchez and Teresa Tran