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Globalized humanitarianism : U.S. imperial formation in Asia and the Pacific through the Indochinese refugee problem


Deploying globalized humanitarianism as a frame of analysis, my dissertation (re)conceptualizes the U.S. Indochinese refugee resettlement as an involvement which exemplified the U.S.'s policy objective of trying to sustain its global power in the region during the Cold War. Engaging in a transnational discourse analysis by citing published materials from both the U.S. and Japan, this dissertation elucidates the ways in which the U.S. employed humanitarianism to carry on its resettlement plan and pressure other countries to participate. The evacuation and resettlement of Indochinese refugees was not necessary an act of forgetting the war, but rather an act of rescuing the "wounded," enabling the U.S. to be a savior in Asia and the Pacific. This rescuer image of the U.S. is historically rooted in the U.S.'s presence there. Even though the war in Vietnam could not display the mightiness of the U.S., the rescue of the refugees and orphans at the end of the war allowed the U.S. public to differentiate the U.S.'s evacuation from the act of war. The theater of rescue had enormous effects on changing the image of the failure of the war. The act of rescue did not stop with the U.S.'s evacuation from the region. A small group of officers from the State Department propelled Indochinese refugee admissions on a large scale by collaborating with the media and mobilizing various organizations. This dissertation points out that the people involved in the resettlement effort had a humanitarian impulse to help the refugees, but they also upheld the larger context of an anticommunistic understanding of the righteousness of U.S. power in Asia. At the same time, the Indochinese refugee problem became an international burden sharing project. Internationalization of the resettlement efforts allowed the U.S. to act as a leader in Asia, while Asia, especially the first asylum countries, played the role of surrogate refuges to the U.S. This process was also an externalization of the refugee processing to Asia to secure the U.S. border. The U.S. government honed the concept of extraterritoriality, blurring the concept of territory by furthering their association with Asian countries. This internationalization was made possible through the cooperation of other countries. This dissertation examines the relationship between the U.S. and Japan in particular, because I want to show that U.S. hegemony in Asia is not a simple form of domination in which the U.S. coerces other countries to collaborate, but rather an intricate complex of power that enables the U.S. to act as a leader. Japan for the first time opened its doors to the refugees and funded the UNHCR with enormous amounts of money to assist the U.S. in the Indochinese refugee resettlement. By doing so, the Government of Japan gained the honor of being a member of the West that was not only wealthy but moral

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