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Recovering the Forgotten Puerto Rican and Chicano Soldiers of the U.S. Wars in East Asia : : Cultural Representations at the Limits of the Scholarly Archive

  • Author(s): Oko-Odoi, Katrina Haugsness
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation addresses the diverse literary and cultural representation of the experiences of Puerto Rican and Chicano minority ethnic soldiers in the U.S. military during the Korean and Vietnam wars. As a minority ethnic soldier--an "outsider within," to borrow from Patricia Hill Collins--I argue, the Puerto Rican and Chicano soldier, as well as his extended community, have the potential to view the U.S. military through a critical lens. This unique positioning stems from the minority ethnic soldier's marginalization within the armed forces, and informs his ability to draw attention to the systemic racism within that very system. I analyze this potentiality in the work of Puerto Rican authors José Luis González and Emilio Díaz Valcárcel (Korean War veteran), and related audiovisual production on the Puerto Rican experience in the U.S. military; literature by Chicano Korean War veterans Rolando Hinojosa and José Montoya; and narratives by Chicana novelists Stella Pope Duarte, Patricia Santana, and Gloria Velásquez. With the goal of expanding this conversation beyond the limits of the academy, I also propose and lay the groundwork for a more accessible archive on U.S. Latina/o military participation. In Recovering the Forgotten Puerto Rican and Chicano Soldiers of the U.S. Wars in East Asia, I consider to what extent - if any - this cultural production contributes to an anti-imperialist project that challenges the underpinnings of the United States' interventionist foreign politics through the military. I conclude that while there is a potential for the construction of an anti-imperialist stance, the perspective of these texts varies depending on what is at stake for the community in question. I identify three salient threads among the Chicana/o and Puerto Rican texts examined in this dissertation. These include : texts that participate in an openly anti-imperialist project; texts that display discontent with larger structural issues within U.S. society and grapple with the complexities of modern, "multicultural" America; and texts that reinforce U.S. nationalist projects by foregrounding their community's contribution to the American nation. I acknowledge that these threads are as fluid and complex as the experiences they represent, and recognize that many works straddle them

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