Sunday, January 12, 2020

Week 2_Melanie Manuel_ASA 150E

Melanie Manuel
ASA 150E 001
11 January 2020

The introduction of Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen’s South Vietnamese Soldiers explains the importance of oral narrative despite criticisms that oral histories are inaccurate and sometimes too fickle to be considered valuable; however, Nguyen argues that these oral narratives are heavily important in understanding the South Vietnamese soldier experience for reasons of complexity and personality, because these not only reveal an aspect of history about the Vietnam War, but also the history about the soldier--something we do not get very much of. I find that oral histories have a particularity about them, and their value albeit personal and biased offer a new take on a topic, such as war and trauma. As an American, we are conditioned and fed United States dominant narratives that force us to side with white hegemony, but we are human and we are apt to try and understand situations or narratives that do not necessarily make sense. In history, the Vietnamese are demonized. We don’t quite understand why until later or until we’ve been exposed to opinions that oppose the dominant, and that’s where the value in oral narrative lies. By offering a different perspective, we become a little more informed and we no longer feel a need to ostracize or even demonize an entire group of people that we do not understand. 

The image I included is the cover of a book I had read for a previous class that used oral narratives to shine light upon the Partition, and the fraught relationship that the author has in her search for the truth. Urvashi Butalia’s The Other Side of Silence is not only a journey for its narrator (the author) in understanding the separation of her mother and her mother’s brother, but also the stories of others who have been forcibly separated from families by such a tragic moment in India’s history. 

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