We are relating back to the theme of countering dominant narratives, the two readings for this week targets the underlying factors and continuous suppression of stories through the perpetuation and misrepresentations of distorted and altered accounts. Nothing Ever Dies by Viet Thanh Nguyen emphasizes the importance of translation and representation. The typical approach of mainstream media and Hollywood sensationalize war movies and paints a different narrative. Nguyen calls for an evaluation of such materials to match the true sentiments of war stories. Reframing the past is different from presenting the past. He tells us that we should strive for authenticity and not romanticize the traumas and tragedies of wars (148). Through scripts, movies, poems, and literature Nguyen hints at the notion of balance in achieving aesthetics and authenticity, though he understood that such feat is difficult to produce; for him, the important thing, above all, is a story that represents the whole truth. (220-222).
Nguyen's piece on representation and authenticity ties well with Kaozong Mouvangsou’s Hmong Does Not Mean Free it underscores an issue that digs deep into miseducation of and by Hmong. Mouvangsou presented her findings from her master thesis. She concluded that the historical accounts of Hmong are dominated by other accounts. This form of domination reflects the lasting impression of colonialism and the Euro-centric structure of World History. Despite this suppression and overshadowing of Hmong ethnic narratives, many Hmong Americans depend on education as a pathway to succeed in life and to hopefully highlight the struggles and successes of Hmongs in the United States. However, Hmongs that go through Western education are often conflicted about their identities and position in American society. The absence of Hmongs in US history addresses the feeling of isolation and lack of belonging of Hmongs in their communities. This creates a disparity that is often entangled with other misconceptions and misrepresentations of Hmongs. Due to the institutional framework of our society, Hmong Americans often find themselves in a division with their spaces – separated from the current politics and pressured by the stereotypes that are placed upon them. This resonates well on why we need to use Ethnic Studies as not only a medium to break these disparities but also reclaim narratives that are suppressed by our current form of history. The question now is how are we going to use Ethnic Studies as a mechanism to sustain the acts of reclaiming history, breaking down systemic divisions, and re-educating the future generations to come? Is Ethnic Studies sufficient to combat these issues?
“Ethnic Studies is…” YouTube, uploaded by Little Manila Rising, 19 April 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGhx2dRJJcQ
Kaozong Mouavangsou. “Hmong Does Not Mean Free: The Miseducation of and By Hmong Americans.
Viet Thanh Nguyen. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. 2016. Introduction; Chapter 5: On Becoming Human; Chapter 7: On Victims and Voices; Just Forgetting, Epilogue.