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The American Dream in Vietnamese

Nhi T. Lieu

Publication Year: 2011

In her research on popular culture of the Vietnamese diaspora, Nhi T. Lieu explores how people displaced by war reconstruct cultural identity in the aftermath of migration. Embracing American democratic ideals and consumer capitalism prior to arriving in the United States, postwar Vietnamese refugees endeavored to assimilate and live the American Dream. In The American Dream in Vietnamese, she claims that nowhere are these fantasies played out more vividly than in the Vietnamese American entertainment industry.

Lieu examines how live music variety shows and videos, beauty pageants, and Web sites created by and for Vietnamese Americans contributed to the shaping of their cultural identity. She shows how popular culture forms repositories for conflicting expectations of assimilation, cultural preservation, and invention, alongside gendered and classed dimensions of ethnic and diasporic identity.

The American Dream in Vietnamese demonstrates how the circulation of images manufactured by both Americans and Vietnamese immigrants serves to produce these immigrants’ paradoxical desires. Within these desires and their representations, Lieu finds the dramatization of the community’s struggle to define itself against the legacy of the refugee label, a classification that continues to pathologize their experiences in American society.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Cover

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pp. 1-7

Contents

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p. vii-vii

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INTRODUCTION: Private Desires on Public Display

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pp. ix-xxv

More than three decades have passed since the fall of Saigon, but the jarring words Viet Nam still haunt many Americans. Known as the unforgettable war lost by the United States, “Viet Nam” was not regarded by the popular media as a nation in its own right. Torn by political confl icts that unleashed massive confusion and tragedy upon its own people, the ...

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1. Assimilation and Ambivalence: Legacies of U.S. Military Intervention

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pp. 1-26

The conflict in Vietnam was one of the most brutal and destructive wars fought between Western imperial powers and the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. During the Cold War, both sides used the ki lling in Vietnam as an object lesson for their cause. More modern weapons technology came into use in the Southeast Asian peninsula than anywhere ...

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2. Vietnamese by Other Means: The Overlapping Diasporas of Little Saigon

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pp. 27-58

When American troops withdrew from Vietnam and surrendered the capital city of Saigon to communist forces on April 30, 1975, the defeat of the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government left an indelible mark on the Vietnamese people who subsequently had to fl ee their fallen homeland. Losing their nation to enemies they had fought fi ercely against was a haunting ...

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3. Pageantry and Nostalgia: Beauty Contests and the Gendered Homeland

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pp. 59-77

Beauty contests may appear frivolous and trivial, but as a cultural practice they stage complex struggles over power and representation. Some feminists have argued that beauty contests are ideological regimes that reinforce dominant constructions of gender and idealized forms of femininity. Yet these organized events are much more complicated than just ...

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4. Consuming Transcendent Media: Videos, Variety Shows, and the New Middle Class

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pp. 79-114

The eyes of the sphinx glimmer in a night fi lled with shining stars as dancers dressed in “Egyptian” costumes move their hands in a serpentine fashion. A contemporary tune plays against this “ancient” backdrop as Vietnamese American singing sensation Thien Kim enters the scene, reclining on a chaise carried by male servants. Made up to look like an ...

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Conclusion: Transnational Flows Between the Diaspora and the Homeland

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pp. 115-134

When the United States lifted economic sanctions against Vietnam in the mid-1990s, it was inevitable that cultural products from the communist nation would enter American soil. Popular culture, particularly music and audiovisual media, fi ltering in from an invigorated Vietnam caused a rift between two generations of Vietnamese Americans. The Los Angeles ...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. 135-140

This book began as a personal journey to critically understand the transforming world around me, but it quickly evolved into an intellectual pursuit that forced me to engage, interrogate, and theorize the entangled histories of Vietnam and the United States as well as the lived experiences of survivors of an unpopular war. The narratives collected in these pages ...

Notes

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pp. 141-169

Index

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pp. 171-186


E-ISBN-13: 9780816676712
E-ISBN-10: 0816676712
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816665709

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011