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Little Saigons

Staying Vietnamese in America

Karin Aguilar–San Juan

Publication Year: 2009

Karin Aguilar-San Juan examines the contradictions of Vietnamese American community and identity in two emblematic yet different locales: Little Saigon in suburban Orange County, California (widely described as the capital of Vietnamese America) and the urban "Vietnamese town" of Fields Corner in Boston, Massachusetts. Their distinctive qualities challenge assumptions about identity and space, growth amid globalization, and processes of Americanization.

With a comparative and race-cognizant approach, Aguilar-San Juan shows how places like Little Saigon and Fields Corner are sites for the simultaneous preservation and redefinition of Vietnamese identity. Intervening in debates about race, ethnicity, multiculturalism, and suburbanization as a form of assimilation, this work elaborates on the significance of place as an integral element of community building and its role in defining Vietnamese American-ness.

Staying Vietnamese, according to Aguilar-San Juan, is not about replicating life in Viet Nam. Rather, it involves moving toward a state of equilibrium that, though always in flux, allows refugees, immigrants, and their U.S.-born offspring to recalibrate their sense of self in order to become Vietnamese anew in places far from their presumed geographic home.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Where Does Viet Nam End and America Begin?

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pp. xi-xxxii

Little Saigons examines the role of place in generating and supporting Vietnamese American community and identity. Because Vietnamese refugees fled their homeland and then immediately upon their arrival to U.S. shores in 1975 were purposefully dispersed across all fifty states by federal resettlement agencies, ...

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1. Producing and Constructing Vietnamese America

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pp. 1-36

Because of the strong interests of the U.S. government in receiving and resettling Vietnamese refugees, there is no shortage of raw statistics or other social scientific data about their migration and settlement patterns, nor is there a paucity of social scientific commentary on the nature and pace of their assimilation into the American mainstream. ...

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2. Q: Nationality? A: Asian.

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pp. 37-60

Staying Vietnamese occurs on, and against, racialized terrain. In this chapter I focus on themes of race and racialization—and, by implication, the unmarked norm of whiteness—as they impact Vietnamese American social life. By making “race” an explicit component of my analysis and interpretation of Vietnamese American community-building and placemaking in Orange County and Boston, ...

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3. Like a Dream I Can Never Forget: Remembering and Commemorating the Past

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pp. 61-90

Staying Vietnamese requires a strategic and purposeful encounter not only with race and racialization, but also with the past. In many important ways, Vietnamese American community-building and place-making looks backward in time in order to confront racism in the present, to recuperate a sliver of Vietnamese nationalism, and to orient the next generations toward an Americanized future.1 ...

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4. What’s Good for Business Is Good for the Community: Packaging and Selling Vietnamese America

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pp. 91-122

Marketplace Multiculturalism consists of a discourse and a set of policies and practices that link the global capitalist economy to the sociospatial terrain out of which Vietnamese America emerges. Imposed from “above” civil society, marketplace multiculturalism may be understood as a state-sponsored directive whose intention is to manage, control, and take advantage of recent transformations in global capitalism, ...

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5. Implications for Community and Place

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pp. 123-156

More than three decades after the “shock of arrival,” Vietnamese refugees, immigrants, and their U.S.–born children have transformed themselves from unexpected strangers to familiar, and often celebrated, ethnic minorities.1 Mainstream social scientists and policy makers have analyzed meticulously the pace and character of Vietnamese assimilation, ...

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Conclusion: How Do You Stay Vietnamese in America?

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pp. 157-160

I went to Vietnam twice in 2006: first in January on a group tour, and a second time in November by myself and as part of a longer personal journey that concluded in the Philippines. ...

Appendix: Research and Methodology

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pp. 161-166


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pp. 167-170


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pp. 171-186

Works Cited

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pp. 187-200


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pp. 201-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780816670307
E-ISBN-10: 0816670307
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816654864

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 527797290
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Little Saigons

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Vietnamese Americans -- Ethnic identity -- Case studies.
  • Vietnamese Americans -- Social conditions -- Case studies.
  • Community life -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Geographical perception -- United States -- Case studies.
  • Place attachment -- United States -- Case studies.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations -- Case studies.
  • Vietnamese Americans -- California -- Orange County -- Social conditions.
  • Vietnamese Americans -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- Social conditions.
  • Orange County (Calif.) -- Ethnic relations -- Case studies.
  • Boston (Mass.) -- Ethnic relations -- Case studies.
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