In Yen Le Espritu’s book, Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refugees, explores various topics in regards to war and its aftermath through the lens of Critical Refuge(e) Studies. One chapter in particular, titled, “Refugee Postmemories: The Generation After” examines the experiences of the post 1975 generation: the young Vietnamese who were born in Vietnam or in the United States after the official end of the Vietnam War (Espiritu, 2015). One of the main points Espiritu brings up is the formation of an Vietnamese identity for these folks, despite not having that knowledge readily accessible to them.
This plagues a lot of Southeast Asian folks, as their histories tend to be written over or erased in time due the experiences and knowledge not being accurately portrayed or not being passed down.
After reading this chapter, it immediately made me recall the current debate on Ethnic Studies. When Espiritu recognized a student’s frustration about the lack of access or education in regards to the Vietnamese experiences, as the student mentioned, “They say we don’t know, don’t understand, our history and culture. But where do we go to learn this? They don’t talk about it at home and they certainly don’t teach it in school” (Espritu, 2015). Some of the very first searches when looking up Ethnic Studies are news articles about Harvard’s fight for Ethnic Studies and why it is important to those students to know about their own history and culture. It does create identity issues and could get to a point where that history becomes completely overwritten or erased entirely. Knowing history is important, as it gives students, specifically those Asian identified, a stronger sense of their own identities.
What would be the best way to entice older generations to come forward about their experiences, considering the trauma and hardships they have gone through? Knowing their experiences directly combat current narratives regarding the war, what would be the best practices to have them share their experiences and recreate a reformed narrative of the war experiences?
Citation: Espiritu, Yen Le. Body Counts the Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(Es). University of California Press, 2014.