The American War in Contemporary Vietnam
Transnational Remembrance and Representation
Publication Year: 2009
Christina Schwenkel's absorbing study explores how the "American War" is remembered and commemorated in Vietnam today -- in official and unofficial histories and in everyday life. Schwenkel analyzes visual representations found in monuments and martyrs' cemeteries, museums, photography and art exhibits, battlefield tours, and related sites of "trauma tourism." In these transnational spaces, American and Vietnamese memories of the war intersect in ways profoundly shaped by global economic liberalization and the return of American citizens as tourists, pilgrims, and philanthropists.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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This has been a difficult book to research and write. Many scars from the war have yet to heal, as the recent 2008 U.S. presidential campaign again reminded us. I have written this book mindful of the ways in which it will impact diff erent groups of people who have very strong emotional attachments to the issues presented here. ...
Note on Use of Diacritics
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Vietnamese is a tonal language written in an adapted version of the Latin alphabet with additional diacritical marks to signify particular tones and vowel qualities. Without these diacritics, the meaning of a Vietnamese word is ambiguous. For this reason I have chosen to include diacritical marks in this book to most accurately represent ...
List of Abbreviations
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Introduction: Remembering (in) Vietnam
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Friday evening, November 17, 2000. Returning from an art performance on the out-skirts of Hanoi, I came upon large crowds of people lining Trang Tiền Street in the city center, a sea of people stretched from the colonial-era Opera House down past Hoàn Kiếm Lake several blocks away. There was no way through; the entire area was blocked to traffic. ...
PART 1. RECONCILIATORY PROJECTS
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1. Return to Vietnam: Redemption, Reconciliation, and Salvation
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While wandering through an exhibit on the “U.S. Special War in the South” at the Museum of the Vietnamese Revolution in Hanoi in the fall of 1999, an inquisitive, middle-aged museum employee named Hà approached me. “Are you a journalist?” she queried, eyeing my notebook and camera. ....
2. Exhibiting War, Reconciling Pasts: Photojournalism and Divergent Visual Histories
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In April 2000, in celebration of the “twenty-fifth anniversary of the liberation of the south and the reunification of the country” [kỷ niệm hai muơi lăm năm ngày giải phóng miền Nam, thống nhất đất nuớc], the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City opened a two-week international photography exhibit, “Requiem—the Vietnam Collection ...
PART 2. MEMORIAL LANDSCAPES
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3. Commodified Memories and Embodied Experiences of War
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In the early dawn hours of April 30, 2000, I quickly made my way through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. The city was beginning to stir as street vendors heated large pots of phở broth and residents slowly jogged through the nearly empty streets. I hurried past the neighborhood park, already filled with badminton players, on my way to the official demonstration ...
4. Monumentalizing War: Toward a New Aesthetics of Memory
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Traveled outside the city of Ðà Lạt today, into the hills of the Central Highlands, on motorbikes with two ARVN veterans as the guides. The men approached me in the street with a book of photographs and recommendations from previous tourists. I agreed and off we went on their self-made tour. Along the way we stopped at an impoverished K’ho ethnic minority village, ...
PART 3. INCOMMENSURABLE PASTS
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5. Contested Truths: Museums and Regimes of Representation and Objectivity
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This chapter looks at museums as transnational sites for co-produced histories and discordant memories. As the above excerpts from “cảm tuởng” [comment] books placed at the end of museum exhibits show, museums are spaces of transnational contestation where differing audiences accept, dispute, or rework the messages and meanings of displays. ...
6. Tortured Bodies and the Neoliberal Politics of Historical Unaccountability
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In 2006 the popular U.S. television show Amazing Race traveled to Vietnam. Upon arrival in Nội Bài international airport in Hanoi, contestants, who race around the globe in competition for a one-million-dollar prize, were instructed to find their way to Hỏa Lò prison, the now popular tourist attraction formerly and “infamously known as Hanoi Hilton,” ...
Conclusion: Empires of Memory and Knowledge Production
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What makes the United States an empire? U.S. historiography and studies of American culture and society have long expressed ambivalence about identifying the United States as a global imperial polity, though such positions have begun to shift since the international events following September 11, 2001 (Stoler 2006, 8; Coronil 2007, 262–263; Ong 2006, 143). ...
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Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 41 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Tracking Globalization