Sunday, May 31, 2015

Week 10 (June 2 & June 4): Viet Nam War as Concept and New Viet Nam Studies

Michelle Dang
Nicky Vu
Nancy Nguyen
Janet Supol
Isaac Pel

WEEK 10: Viet Nam War as Concept & New Viet Nam Studies

What was the involvement of Asian Americans during the war time period and what aspects of these political activities still prevalent.
What were some crucial ethnic solidarities that were established?
What are the legacies, lessons, and lingering effects of the Viet Nam War on people of color today?
What are ways for us to reconsider the Viet Nam War?
Why does the Viet Nam War remain a salient issue half a century after its inception?
What is the role of Southeast Asian Americans in capturing a more inclusive and complex history of the Viet Nam War era and its aftermath?

1.     One ethnic solidarity was the multiple ethnic enclaves which were developed as a consequence of the war. These enclaves provided a sense of belonging in a their respective ethnic community away from their homeland. They also provided a smooth resettlement process with the services (employment, housing, paperwork, food, water, belonging, etc.)  these ethnic enclaves offered.
2.     The Viet Nam War caused colored people to be more active and involved in ethnic movements, such as the Black Panther Movement. For example, Richard Aoki, a third generation Japanese American went sent to a concentration camp as a young boy. At this young age, he witnessed the injustice dealt upon colored people. This acted as a motive to be actively involved in the Black Panther movement, so he can fight against injustice for colored people. The Black Panther Movement also occurred near the time when the Viet Nam War occurred.
3.     The Viet Nam War can be reconsidered in several ways: the United States aggressive dominance portrayed to foes, publicizing the perspectives of those who were forced to flee from Southeast Asia, documenting the “American” and Southeastern perspective in textbooks and media, excessive use of force and weapons from U.S.
4.     The Viet Nam War remains a salient issue due to the long-lasting effect on the economic, political, social, and physical consequences. Refugees arriving in the U.S. predominantly relocated in impoverished communities and many never regained the higher economic status they once had. Viet Nam War refugees held strong anti-communist feelings and they still persist today, due to their traumatic experience. These political ideologies were not transferred onto the newer generation because they were not exposed to the tragedies their parents experienced. While social consequences included the small communities and groups refugees were forced to reside in. This way, they felt more at “home” in America. Unfortunately, during the Viet Nam War, toxins and harmful chemicals were sprayed throughout Southeast Asia. These chemicals caused birth defects and diseases such as cancer. For example, the effects of Agent Orange still exist and harm Southeast individuals today because their parents were exposed to them.
5.     Southeast Asian Americans capture the history of the Viet Nam War era and its aftermath from alternative methods that were not portrayed by media in the United States. If more Americans were aware of the underlying history that was not exposed, they would have a better understanding of what America really is and how America poorly treats other countries and their respective residents.

5 Discussion Questions
1.     How has the evolving “view” of the Vietnam War changed its perception in the eyes of the American public?
2.     In what ways can the Vietnam War still be considered a contemporary issue?
3.     How might the United States’ role as an economic power affected its influence over relationships with Southeast Asian countries?
4.     How different might be views of the Vietnam War if economic roles were reversed?
5.     In what ways can the changing of views play key roles into the ways wars are waged today?

Fiona I.B. Ngô, Mimi Thi Nguyen, and Mariam B. Lam. “Guest Editors’ Introduction.” Positions.

In focusing our critical lens on the consequences of secret wars, refugee archives, and recurring traces of both of these through the concepts of culture and capital, the authors hope to enact another “worlding” of Asian American studies and Asian studies. They want to present new insights into the workings of wartime operations and peacetime machinery through Southeast Asian American studies. They also hope to foster and facilitate new critical discussions between Southeast Asian studies and Asian American studies.

Southeast Asian is crucial as a political impetus for the interdisciplines of US ethnic studies, especially as the US involvement in Viet Nam War “over there” resonated with those engaged in Third World liberation and other radical movements “back here.” Thus, the field of ASA studies formed coincident with the wars in Southeast Asia. However, the Southeast Asia refugees and immigrants entering the U.S. found that the “gift of freedom” required their cooperation with both existing and emergent disciplinary regimes, suggesting forms of violence other than war.

The essays approach these concerns by pointing to some important changes in the scholarship around Southeast Asians in the US. Firstly, there is a shift toward transnational cultural studies. This new body of scholarship addresses more complicated inquiries about assemblages of nations and states, refugees and residents, migrations and returns. New directions in Southeast Asian studies suggest we must rethink concepts, including citizenship and exile, dependency and freedom, economy and effects. Secondly, we are seeing changes in the approach to the Southeast Asian refugee. The authors target the familiar narrative mechanisms of the tragic refugee, which too often assume the good will of the US’ gift of freedom. Thirdly, these critical inquiries about war, empire, and their aftermaths occur in the context of renewed war, empire, and the unknown possibilities of their aftermaths.

The articles approach Southeast Asian American studies as a method for engagements with US empire. The authors pursue interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methods. They represent a new generation of scholars (some of whom are migrants and refugees) who bring new frames of inquiry to the knowledge formation about these populations and their diasporas. While earlier scholarships often focused on damage of disruption, recovering “lost” or “unheard” voices, or refugee resilience to return selfhood to the Southeast Asian migrant, some authors seek to bear new pressures upon liberalism as well as neoliberalism. Ultimately, the essays offer new grounds for investigation in Asian, Asian American, and American studies.

Viet Thanh Nguyen. “Refugee Memories and Asian American Critique.” Positions.

In “Refugee Memories and Asian American Critique,” Viet Thanh Nguyen claims there are two nostalgic perspectives among refugees of the Viet Nam War. Svetlana Boym has used the term “restorative nostalgia” for the perspective of strong anti-communist sentiment. It is the feeling of not fully recovering from the traumatic history of the war, especially represented by those who continue to wear their military uniforms. They continue to live in the past, believing they can regain their homeland. The other perspective is “reflective nostalgia” that holds onto much of the uncertainty of the past. Although they stand at opposite ends, both nostalgics agree the Southeast Asians themselves were the ones most troubled by the war.

For the most part, scholarship of Southeast Asia has been published by Western powers, namely The U.S. and Europe. Southeast Asian academics have a better understanding of the culture, but their work is not as known compared Western academic work. This causes tension because there is the claim this gives way for the U.S. the further dominate the globe. For the most part, the author argues there should be a Southeast Asian American Studies due to the large diasporic movement of Asian people around the globe. He also claims Southeast Asian Studies fit in Asian American Studies and one goal to move towards not having to be called Asian American by getting rid of racial distinctions. Problems further arise as there are the many different perspectives in the Asian American studies that can be an impediment to advancing the community.

Mark Beeson, “U.S. Hegemony and Southeast Asia: The Impact of, and Limits to, U.S. Power and Influence.”

In the article “U.S Hegemony and Southeast Asia,” Mark Beeson argues that United State's foreign policies may be weakening its 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.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been pushing a globalization of democratic implementations. The U.S. has changed from the high institutionalized multilateral order associated with society to a more unilateral and reliant on military power than ideological power. Basically, U.S.'s hegemonic position is declining. Since the 9/11 attack, U.S. started to focus more on their military power to implement their superiority rather than allies or institutions like they were doing right after the Cold War. Although the Southeast Asians 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.

Below discusses US’s agenda for pushing democracy as a hegemonic power.


Beeson, Mark, “U.S. Hegemony and Southeast Asia: The Impact of, and Limits to, U.S. Power and Influence.”

Ngô, Fiona I.B., Nguyen Mimi Thi, and Lam, Mariam B. “Guest Editors’ Introduction.” Positions.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. “Refugee Memories and Asian American Critique.” Positions.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Week 9 – May 26 and 28 Diasporic Experiences and Transnational Processes

1) What are some important connections between Southeast Asian countries and their diasporic groups?
2) What are some Southeast Asian American Intra-ethnic and Inter-ethnic strife and solidarities?

Questions for Class Discussion:
1) What are some ways Vietnamese Americans are doing to fight for political representation?
2)How have communication technology advances improved over the years? In what ways have this benefited many communities in terms of social change?
3)In what ways have music provided us a way to reconnect with ourselves and our ethnic group? Do you think music is taken for granted?
4) In what other ways not discussed in the readings can visual art create opportunities for solidarity?
In what ways can it inhibit that possibility for open dialogue?
5) What else can individuals do (that has not been attempted prior) to change the binary of the Vietnamese  (communism/anti-communism, nationals/refugee, older/younger generation, etc.)?

Transnationalizing Viet Nam: Community, Culture, and Politics in the Diaspora by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde

Brian Vuong:
Chapter 1: Transnationalizing Viet Nam

Chapter 1 starts when Valverde explains the term diaspora : this term can sometimes have a negative connection to the "motherland' especially when the diasporas and the homeland don't have a good relationships. Nakanishi argues that the movement of refugees and immigrants are heavily depend on international politics of where the refugees and immigrants come from. The addition of Vaverde's diaspora  definition is that included that hybrid cultures of the homeland and adopted country where the refugees and immigrants stay. Next, Valverde explains little bit about how Vietnamese Americans are in the US by 3 waves : wave 1 is for who work for US during the Viet Nam war, wave 2 is for the "boat people" who lived under the new united Viet Nam and find its difficulty and want to escape, wave 3 is for the former South Viet Nam military personnels who went to 're-education' camp under the North Communist government of Viet Nam, the program also called HO "Humanitarian Operation". She argue that Vietnamese American don't assimilate to the US's culture fast enough so they are treated unfairly. Some younger generation of Vietnamese Americans used their fathers or grandfathers' experiences and turn into art such as independent film, art works, memoirs. All 3 waves of Vietnamese Americans experience different feeling of displacement. Valverde stated that : " For 75-er, displacement meant losing the nation...For the boat refugees, they carry with them years of discrimination in Viet Nam, trauma from escape and camp experience...For HO members, some forms of oppressions remain strong in the US, Young generation experience internal struggles include the legacy of their parents' loss and discrimination in a racist new home." After 1975, the diaspora still reserve the culture of South Viet Nam nation. For them, they are either anti-communist or communist. In many ways, it's unclear about the idea of anticommunism. After resettlement in new home, Vietnamese refuguees created few organizations with the hope of taking Viet Nam by force, protest, etc. The examples are NUFLVB National United Front of the Libration of Vietnam, Viet Tan. Viet Tan's focus on spreading democratic ideas and multiparty system and influenced US policy on human rights in Viet Nam. In chapter, Valverde also mentions about Duong Trong Lam, other individuals who were not really Communist agents, but have opposite ideas of anticommunist organizations. They got hated  and protested by those anticommunist organizations for 'connecting Vietnamese diaspora and the Vietnamese government'. Starting around 1998, The Vietnamese government started to welcome "Viet Kieu" coming back to Viet Nam to bring up the economics and bring Viet Nam closer to globalization. "Viet Kieu" are also who they called "My Nguy" or traitors after the war ended. In Valverde's case study, she interviewed 150 people in Viet Nam and 100 people in the US from 1993 to 2012 analyzing all the topics of chapter 2,3 4.

Source :

Chapter 2: Popular Music: Sounds of Home Resistance and Change

As chapter 2 of the book Popular Music: Sounds of Resistance and Change discusses some of the important connections between Southeast Asian countries and their diasporic groups involves popular music. Before and after 1975, music has been a way to express themselves in their lives and offer creativity and inspirations. As mentioned in the first couple of pages of chapter 2, before the liberation of Vietnam, South and North were two completely different sides. However, as one of the statements from a person living in the South at the time, stated that when traveling to the North for an official trip, he/she came to realized that Northerners were listening to Sai Gon music since the early sixties and was aware of the famous Saigonese singers in the South. To add on, he/she also mentioned that this was done in secret due to North Vietnamese politics and government restrictions, “…because music has no boundaries and politics, they were very interested in this kind of music.” As the chapter later develops, music has in itself taken up a symbol of self identity of different ethnic or social groups to redefine and reconnect back to their roots after the 1975 exodus of refugees. Some producers carry with them cassettes and music recordings to begin anew in the new place that awaits them. Once settled down, those who were business owners in Vietnam became Vietnamese music producers in America making cassette tapes and dubbing them to distributing them into the French/American Vietnamese population.  Many Vietnamese refugees connected well with the music because it was not only just music to the ears but the type of music that resonated and reflected their circumstances and the need to escape their situation and lament their perceived glorious and glamorous past. As music was a way to build connections to those back home and those in diaspora, there were also complications and strife that prohibited the spread of music from the Vietnamese American communities to the homelands. To consider, there were the regulations from the U.S. and Vietnamese government that restricts trade across boundaries as well as opposition that the music created are foreign influenced. Despite all though, music was able to transgressed and be produced transnationally. With time came loosened restrictions and tensions thus transportation, music, and entertainment technologies have allowed artists to connect with people abroad more frequently and have enabled them to listen to the different musical developments in many more spaces like the internet.
(Pham Duy: The Rain on the Leaves)

Chapter 3: Social Transformations from Virtual Communities 
This chapter delves into the aspect of improved and ongoing technology that is highly rendered in the United States and less in third world countries such as Vietnam. After 1975, refugees who were displaced into various places had obstacles of trying to find what ways to reconnect to those who were left behind. Through the fast development of internet in the United States, forms of communication became slow and steady in the still developing country of Vietnam. However, with the diasporic of Vietnamese Americans in the U.S. and their intellectual knowledge in computer and engineering, the link to providing more information technology to Vietnam became an ongoing process that helps to improve communication between the diaspora and homeland Vietnamese communities.
One of the main components of this chapter was the creation of a transnational virtual community called VN Forum created by Hoanh Tran and Tin Le. Through this network, they were able to provide transpacific exchanges like training support in the U.S. for some of the first Vietnamese computer engineer as well as setting up companies with computer servers in Vietnam to help the Vietnamese community connect to the rest of the world. In the start stage of internet servers being available, it was very limited to households as having internet in Vietnam was quite expensive and the process of installing takes up to a year. In addition, because of Vietnam government restrictions and regulations, having internet and advanced communication technology pose a dangerous problem such that websites that prove to be of harm to the Vietnamese state was restricted. Even groups such as the California Vietnamese group were being questioned of their purpose and marked by city police. Because the tension between the U.S. and Vietnam following the time after 1975 was not so well off and displayed, such communication technology as well as groups were put to question where their alliance are. 
As there were complications among both sides, there were also recognition and solidarity among the diasporic and Southeast Asian communities. As mentioned earlier, VNForum, in addition to the support of communication technology, also supported and served as a group for social justice projects. One of the most notably ones was the No Nike Campaign for Labor Rights. Through this site, member of the VNForum, Thuyen Nguyen posts his concerns about unfair labor and working conditions of Vietnamese people in the Nike shoe factory in Vietnam. Through the forum, Thuyen and his cohort became advocacies for the fight against Nike’s labor abuses in Vietnam. His advocacy and support for the Vietnamese labor in Nike’s factory became recognized and supported by many Vietnamese student organizations such as UC Berkeley, the Vietnamese American Coalition and many more. From Thuyen’s work and advocacy, it generated a positive feedback from the Vietnamese community in America as well as back in the homeland. It also initiated widespread support from the mainstream America that came together to support positive changes in the lives of workers in Vietnam.

Jason Luong:
Chapter 4: Defying and Redefining Vietnamese Diasporic Art and Media as Seen through Chau Huynh's Creations
When handling matters of historical and sociopolitical significance in a country divided such as Viet Nam, portraying or discussing an objective point of view becomes problematic. In the fourth of Transnationalizing Viet Nam, having such issues became the center for disputes and protests. As stated in the introduction, “in January [of] 2009, an art exhibit of Vietnamese American works with the theme of diverse perspectives as expressed freely in art, F.O.B. II: Art Speaks, appeared in Santa Ana, in Southern California” (90). Unfortunately for the exhibit, the event was closed a few days earlier than expected due to a growing protest regarding some of the contents displayed in the exhibit. The most prominent feature of this issue was two of Chau Huynh's pieces: one being a quilt designed with both the Southern Viet Nam's flag and the Northern Viet Nam's flag as integral patterns, and the other being three pedicure basins painted in the South's former Republic flag colors and patterns. Three points of interests come to mind when discussing this type of controversy. The first two issues are closely related; we must first talk of the sociopolitical motivations behind the protests as well as the efforts taken and messages sent within the protest groups. The loss of their country has injured an an entire community which has led to a narrow perspective on the current U.S.-Viet Nam relationship. With the aging of the older generation whom carries the torch of legacy and remembrance of the pain inflicted to them and their families forty years ago as well as the dialogues that come with the opening of U.S.-Viet Nam relations, differences in dealing with the current state of the country and its identity within its two peoples has led extremists from the refugee group to declare these pieces of art as a display of Communist takeover attempt. They charge several newspaper companies and their employees as having been indoctrinated Communist hoping to break down their community. Justification for their actions are not the main topic for discussion however as their intentions are obvious. The true focus lies with the reason for such extreme measures to counter Communism. For the exhibit as well as the newspapers which were targeted, no such mentions for Communism is present; rather, the individuals involved with the decisions that sparked controversy has history or has family history facing against the North. So why has this happened then? It is an unfortunate thought, but those challenged and lost their nation against Communism have little patience for seeking objective facts or thoughts; once the line that was silently drawn is crossed, those who crossed it are declared unsupportive of the community's interests and therefore an agent of the North. Furthermore, it is fear that primarily drives their current path as that history is all that those who remember the loss can claim as their own. That is the reality of the binary that was created by the division of a people during the Cold War era. The last topic is what measures the defendants have taken in order to protect themselves against these acts of aggression. In early cases, most have tried appealing to the protesters' demands such as the firing of selected and targeted employees or the closing of exhibits and galleries. Often do these methods find little traction against the protester agenda as the damage to the targeted has already been done which forever stigmatizes the group in whole. What has changed over the years is the determination of the defendants. Chau and others feel that their acts to reconcile with the divided history of the Vietnamese have made progress despite these counters. Furthermore, these cases often are taken up into the courts and these red baiting tactics have been ruled under slander due to the use of personal leaks and attacks to selected individuals. Ultimately, it is an ironic part of this history as it is a deep, communal fight against a regime that has led them to use fear tactics to reduce their losses, and have resulted, in recent cases, open up opportunities for further dialogue rather than rehash the same history that has been in a loop for this group for over forty years.

Victoria Vergara:

Chapter 5: Whose Community Is It Anyways? Overseas Vietnamese Negotiating Their Cultural and Political Identity: The Case of Vice-Mayor Madison Nguyen 

     The chapter begins with council member, Madison Nguyen, at a press conference, where she is faced with a room filled with Vietnamese American journalists who have written critical pieces regarding her performance as a council member. Madison announces her release of her free DVD, where the documentary was "meant to convince the Vietnamese American public not to recall her." The Vietnamese Americans were fighting for political representation within their community, however, they perceived Madison as a communist for not allowing the name "Little Saigon" to be the established name for the district. Madison's father who was a solider for the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam, kept silent for most of her previous campaigns in order for her to be independent and to learn from her own mistakes. However, after accusations of her having relations to communism--that's when Nho Nguyen spoke up and defended her. 
     Madison accomplished a lot in the San Jose Community. She organized a successful voter registration for numerous Vietnamese Americans and she also waged a campaign against the San Jose police department over a wrongful killing of a Vietnamese American mother, Cau Thi Bich Tran, where her family won $2 million from the San Jose police department. These accomplishments made her a successful city council member. However, the controversy about refusing the name Little Saigon to be the name for the business district, resulted in hateful remarks towards Madison from the Vietnamese American community. They strongly assumed that her refusal to call the district Little Saigon was because of her strong ties to communism. Advocates of Little Saigon believed that that name was suitable because it represented "refugee experience, freedom, democracy, and nationalism. Most of all, it represented anti-communism." In attempt to resolve this conflict, Madison pushed for the name "Saigon Business District" instead in order to appease the public who supported other names such as New Saigon and Little Saigon. However, the protesters still wanted Little Saigon. 
     As the protests were lingering on, racial tensions were emerging within San Jose. Predominantly Latinos and white as well as other Asian Americans "began efforts to reclaim San Jose as a multiethnic city that should not have ethnically demarcated business districts." People posted racial comments toward Vietnamese Americans on Little Saigon telling them to go back to Viet Nam and that if they were really Americans, they would assimilate to their culture and to cease the protests. To calm the waters, Madison and Mayor Reed allowed the Vietnamese American public to hang banners with the name Little Saigon around the city--the community saw this as a victory, however, they still continued with their efforts to recall Madison. Despite their efforts, Madison was victorious because "she raised twice as much money for her no-recall campaign than her opponents; [and] all the San Jose council members and the mayor supported her." 
     The chapter also explains that a good portion of the Vietnamese population during the 1975 wave of refugees, were from wealthy and powerful political families. So, when they came to the states, they had a strong desire to lead and to be financially secure. Within the Vietnamese American community, the older generation directed their focus on anti-communism whereas the younger generation, who were born and raised in the U.S., disapproved of their parents and older generation in terms of activism for political and social identities. In conclusion, after months of weekly protests, they have managed to alienate many of the Vietnamese Americans in the Bay Area. "In an unprecedented event in Vietnamese immigrant history, over eight-hundred Vietnamese American professionals, laborers, leaders, and activists calling themselves Our Voice signed an open letter asking for the end of intimidation tactics by the protesters and calling for peace and support for Madison Nguyen."

Chapter 6: Vietnamese Diaspora Revisited  

    Professor Valverde writes about countless experiences throughout her enlightening book which showcases the Vietnamese American community trying to fight for political representation and social rights. The chapter begins with Phuong Ho, a twenty-year-old international student majoring in math at San Jose State University. In September 3, 2009 an incident occurred where Phoung’s roommate, Jeremy Suftin, put soap on Phoung’s steak. Indeed, this infuriated him so he took a knife and seemingly threatened Jeremy by saying, “In Vietnam, I would kill you over that.” Despite the roommates perceiving this as a casual joke, Jeremy took it very seriously and reported this incident to the police. The police claimed that Phuong was uncooperative and resisting arrest, thus resulting in him getting hit with a metal baton several times as well as getting tasered. “Some of the strikes took place after Phuong was already subdued and on the floor, and he pleaded for mercy during most of this time.” One of the roommates recorded the incident and this incident became a viral issue.
    Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and other Vietnamese community members expressed concern for this issue and demanded justice. However, when the info of Phuong was a Vietnamese national was learned by the community, some of them began to distance themselves from the issue because they feared that they would be labeled as communist. In regard to this issue, because many saw this is a violence act against the police, who abused their power, the Vietnamese Consulate General in San Francisco sought to provide protection for Phuong.
    Many immigrants face the challenge of assimilating themselves into American culture while negotiating their places in U.S. society. With the Vietnamese immigrants, “Official Vietnamese representatives in the United States are compelled to sepal in support for their citizens in such cases.” However, “Vietnamese officials have been careful not to criticize the United States and jeopardize diplomatic and financial ties.” According to Valverede, “Vietnamese American lives are transnational.” The people in Viet Nam and in diaspora inevitably find way to connect despite international policies discouraging such connections. Through the digital and virtual world, people in Viet Nam and some Vietnamese Americans are able to virtually organize social movements, create art, and find political representation.
    In this chapter, Professor Valverde lists some of her profound moments in her research. Throughout the book, she divulges the causes of events and what the motive is behind them. For instance, she describes Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen’s controversy over the name calling of the Business district in San Jose. The outcome of this event, “Permanently shifted the dynamics of Vietnamese American politics in diaspora.” Professer Valverde even explains that during her fieldwork in Viet Nam, she found out how “transnational connections” are disguised, because if these connections were detected by the Vietnamese government, the flow of exchange will stop and those in on these various connections will be confined.
    Indeed, the Vietnamese Americans had definitely had their historical hardships throughout the war and even up till now—trying to find their national identity within the United States. However, with people like Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, writers/bloggers like Hoanh Dinh Tran and Tin Le, and Our Voice association— they all provide support for the Vietnamese American community to be appropriately represented.