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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Anticommunism as cultural praxis : South Vietnam, war, and refugee memories in the Vietnamese American community

  • Author(s): Vo Dang, Thanh Thuy
  • et al.

In dialogue with new critical scholarship on immigration, refugee, war, and memory studies as well as drawing from the methodologies of cultural studies and ethnography, this dissertation examines "anticommunism" as a set of cultural discourses and practices that shape the past, present, and future of Vietnamese diasporic communities by exploring when, where, and for what purposes South Vietnam emerges in refugee memories. That anticommunism continues to be an important paradigm for Vietnamese diasporic identity and community formations more than thirty years after the official end of the war and despite increased transnational relations between Vietnam and its diaspora suggests the need to theorize the multiplicity of meanings that it has amassed through the years. Through ethnographic interviews, participation in and observation of Vietnamese American community events in San Diego and analysis of its cultural productions, I examine how the refugee (or first) generation apprehend and deploy anticommunism in community spaces and in their private lives in order to engage with conversations about how memory, history and silence intersect and reveal hidden dynamics of institutional power and violence. How can acts of collective remembrance and the burdened silences of the first generation regarding the Vietnam-American war and post-war traumas work as alternatives to state sanctioned narratives (in Vietnam and the US) that erase a or disavow South Vietnamese perspectives? Can we read differently the public face of anticommunist politics that has authorized community censorship and violence in the past thirty years? This dissertation takes apart what has been academically and generally dismissed as conservative exile politics and looks to everyday community meaning-making practices as a legitimate and important site of knowledge. Thinking of Vietnamese American anticommunism as a cultural praxis--a mode for engaging in memory and meaning -making practices--it becomes possible to discuss the complexity of post-war grappling with death, loss, exile, and survival for those on the ground

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