Instructor: Catherine Nguyen
Meeting time: Thursday, 3:00-5:45
“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory,” Viet Thanh Nguyen has argued. In this seminar, we will challenge how the Vietnam War is remembered in the United States by focusing on the work of Asian Americans and the Southeast Asian diaspora. From the 1960s onward, the American perspective and the figure of the white American soldier have dominated the history of and the imagination surrounding the Vietnam War. As a result, the experiences of the Vietnamese, and of Southeast Asia and Asian America more broadly, have been pushed to the periphery. This seminar brings them back front and center. Reading a range of texts and artwork, we will study the various narratives of war, refugees, and the diaspora and will place the Vietnam War in a longer historical perspective that illuminates the imperial legacies of the conflict. We will engage with Vietnamese narratives of the war that include soldier and civilian perspectives as well as diasporic works. We will consider the Asian American experience of the war: soldiers and veterans, the Third World Liberation Front, and anti-war protests. And we will examine the diversity of the Southeast Asian experience and cultural productions. This seminar offers us the opportunity to think together about how the Vietnam War as a historical event as well as category of Asian American/Vietnamese/Southeast Asian experience can allow for analyses and critiques of war, empire, and diaspora that speak to contemporary discussions of citizenship and belonging and the U.S. immigration policies.With funding from History & Literature and the Asia Center at Harvard, this seminar offers a mini speaker series with scholars in critical refugee studies and Southeast Asian diasporic artists and cultural producers. These events are required for seminar students and will be open to the public.