Saturday, February 11, 2017

Transnationalizing Vietnam Report

By Laila Hassen, Angela Nguyen, Helen Vu

For the reading this week, “Transnationalizing Viet Nam,” by Professor Valverde there are several concepts explored through highlights of the complicated history between Viet Nam, the United States, and the Vietnamese diasporic community. We found it important that Valverde's reading sought to establish understanding at the very foundation before delving into analyzing the issues. The first is the meaning of diaspora; some of our personal thoughts on the meaning of diaspora resonated with the traditional sense developed during 20th-Century Europe where groups of a community are cast afar from their homeland, left to assimilate, or to become the social outcasts of their new homeland. However, Valverde clearly defines those affected by the diaspora as those who possess strong, positive connections to a homeland, yet encounter contentious groups overseas. We continue to see the aftermaths of the Vietnam War plague the lives of the Vietnamese, and their future generations. There is less of a physical and visible impact that was more present during the war, whereas we see more inner-conflicts such as identity, feeling of belonging, socio-economic struggles, and connectedness. All these issues are still very real today with other refugees displaced by the wars in the Middle East. Awareness has also allowed us to move forward to address these invisible issues and give voice and a tangible solution to have we receive immigrants. This is largely enabled by dramatic shifts in technology, culture, and capital.
In Chapter 4, “Defying and Redefining Vietnamese Diasporic Art and Media as Seen Through Chau Huynh’s Creations,” Valverde talks about the different issues and backlash Chau Huynh faced in presenting her exhibits and the controversy the curator had in showcasing her work. Valverde critically analyzes how media outlets like Nguoi Viet Daily and Viet Weekly deemed Chau Huynh a communist due to the production of her art. In two examples, such as the Pedicure Basin and the Marriage Quilt, none of which were made with the intention of communist propaganda as certain groups in the community claimed. Chau Huynh was inspired by her family members but countless Vietnamese Americans were not able to understand her true motivations between her and her productions. The media portrayed her in a negative light and many anti-communists took matters out of its context and were protesting her about her values and beliefs. Despite her not being one, she was projected as a communist due to an incorrect understanding of her art. For example, the understanding of the Pedicure Basin was tied to the beliefs that Chau Huynh was against the anti communist Vietnamese Community and was for that of the communist. Chau Huynh made the Pedicure Basin to recognize the struggles of the Vietnamese community who experienced many hardships like working in nail salons post coming to the States to live. Her mother-in-law faced many struggles in working in the salon for example and Chau Huynh’s motivation behind the Pedicure Basin was to bring attention to this issue. Yet, members of the Vietnamese Community in the States found her artwork to be offensive as they saw it as a form of humiliation. What stemmed from this belief was how the South Vietnam Flag was depicted in a foot basin rather than any other flag like the Republic of Vietnam Flag. Valverde elaborates on this particular situation in this Chapter and and shows how anticommunists have strong influence, hatred, and control over ideas and issues that do not pertain to their interests.
In Chapter 5, “Whose Community Is It Anyway?” spoke of the Vietnamese American community and their staunch anticommunist views which does not seem to reflect the changing political environment in the United States. Professor Valverde focuses on one specific individual in particular, Madison Nguyen, and her conflicting relationship with the Vietnamese American community in San Jose, California. San Jose is recognized to have one of the biggest population of Vietnamese individuals outside of Viet Nam itself, yet the group lacked political voice and participation within the region. Madison Nguyen noticed the discrepancy, and began her efforts to assist the community in gaining political voice by registering them to vote. The effort jumpstarted her career in local politics, which eventually led her to hold positions as a member on the board of education at Franklin-McKinley School District, as well as being the first Vietnamese American woman to be elected to San Jose’s city council. Backed with tremendous support from her own people she “became the trusted public servant for all issues ailing the Vietnamese American community,” but the same people who championed for her success soon forced a recall election against her two years later. Controversy began when the Vietnamese American population in San Jose demanded that a business district in construction to be named Little Saigon, anything else would be deemed disrespectful to the community. They heavily wanted the name on the grounds of national symbolism, because it was “the only way to represent overseas Vietnamese and their experiences as refugees fleeing a communist-controlled Viet Nam” (121). Madison believed in compromise, but staying neutral meant something completely different. Little Saigon advocates believed that the name represented many things, but most importantly it it stood for anticommunism, hence, “not supporting the name Little Saigon meant not believing in these ideals” (123). The then councilwoman faced immense backlash from her community, and they began to label her as a communist and that she had betrayed the Vietnamese population for her own economic gains. The recall election was pushed forward by those who were pro-Little Saigon, but in the end Madison proved to be victorious however it was now obvious that the staunch anticommunism ideals held by many Vietnamese in the diaspora could be futile to the development of Vietnamese American politics.
Vietnamese Americans strong anticommunism beliefs is evident in many cases, and not just the Little Saigon naming issue and Madison Nguyen. Because, “as the United and Viet Nam moved closer diplomatically and economically, U.S. government support for Vietnamese American anticommunist groups declined,” but this only means that the groups would work only harder to promote their ideologies. Numerous examples were mentioned in the reading, such as the Hi-Tek incident and how both cities of Garden Grove and Westminster unanimously backed up of a resolution that would ban visits by members and officials of the Vietnamese communist government. The anticommunist Vietnamese community are urgent in their organizing by using tactics of protest, boycotts, and harsh rhetorics. Their intense vigor comes from a place of fear, because “the concern arises that Vietnamese economic influence abroad will lead to cultural and political control of the diaspora” (135). But with such a strong push for anticommunism narrative in the community, it silences the voices of those who would speak the present realities in fear of being red-baited. Stated in the reading the idea of community has evolved, and it is important to give space to each and every experience because by perpetuating a myth of Vietnamese American monolithic identity will only cause stagnation and sorrow (Valverde 144).
Works Cited
Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. “Introduction”. Transnationalizing Viet Nam. Philadelphia Temple University Press, 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2017

Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. “Chapter 4”. Transnationalizing Viet Nam. Philadelphia Temple University Press, 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2017

Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. “Chapter 5”. Transnationalizing Viet Nam. Philadelphia Temple University Press, 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2017

Valverde, Kieu-Linh Caroline. “Chapter 6”. Transnationalizing Viet Nam. Philadelphia Temple University Press, 2012. Web. 10 Feb. 2017

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