UC San Diego
Recalling the refugee : culture clash and melancholic racial formation in Daughter from Danang
- Author(s): Nguyen, Linh Thuy
- et al.
Mainstream reviews of the documentary Daughter from Danang cite the trope of "cultural clash" as an explanation for the failed reunion of Heidi Bub, a Babylift orphan, with her Vietnamese mother. Other analyses of the film have highlighted the mixed-race status of the protagonist as well as her identity as a transnational adoptee as a means of analyzing structures of race and workings of US empire through the film, situating it within the context of the Vietnam War. Drawing from this body of critical work to denaturalize the culture clash narrative, this paper intervenes to analyze the film through the paradigm of the refugee, via critical refugee studies. Through this framework, I connect the film to the notion of historical and collective memory through a generational refugee perspective. Viewing the psychological as a space allusive of the afterlife of war, I frame the notion of desire for reconciliation outside of the cultural clash narrative in a way that contextualizes Bub's connection to her resettlement in the United States, as informed by her racial formation in the south. I conclude that through the lens of refugee studies, we are able to recognize the site of trauma not just in Bub's failed reunion with her mother, but rather, in the everyday lived experiences of violence through assimilation and racial illegibility, in addition to racial melancholia within the black / white racial economy of the US south