In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Figure 1. “Sea and boat...it all began with two.” Still from Forgetting Vietnam. 35 Codex A Collaborative Review of Trinh Minh-­ ha’s Forgetting Vietnam Specular Vietnam and the Cinematics of Distraction Trung Phan Quoc Nguyen There is a scene in Trinh T. Minh-­ ha’s provocative portrait of postwar Vietnam in Forgetting Vietnam (2015) that names a genre of dysphoric subjectivity under global capital. In an underexposed room backlit by the noon sun, the camera captures a fleeting moment of diverted attention. A figure, whose mahogany robes and shaved head mark his indelible difference as a nonsecular, ethnic subject, is seen sitting on a stool against a chipped plaster wall, monitoring a swaying wooden mallet. Though tasked to discipline the mallet into properly timed strikes against a temple gong for the tourists, his gaze, like the mallet, forgets the trajectory to which he is bound and begins to wander. At times, the figure steals a momentary glance at the surveilling regard of the camera, closing the distance between spectator and subject that sustains the voyeuristic relationship between a body marked by difference and its other. While the viewer is immersed in this mundane snapshot of fleeting distraction, a question interrupts the bottom right corner of the screen, evaporating out of sight as quickly as it came: “getting bored?” Though the address remains ambivalent—­to the figure in frame (bored of your task?), the audience in the theater (bored of this scene?), or the abstract voyeur of Vietnam (bored of these images?)—­the question nonetheless interpellates a genre that links subjects across the time and space of global capital, especially in sites and populations zoned as disposable reservoirs of extractable labor. Characterized by a disinterest and a listlessness that saturate the body, the genre of boredom collates the body’s oscillation in and out of production. Yet this is not a boredom that 36 Codex embraces the exchange of human aura for mechanical reproduction, or a boredom akin to depoliticized passivity, but rather a boredom that screens a nonidentification with the structure of labor accumulation, alluding to the possibility of an otherwise through constant search. Flat, fleeting, restless: the subject onscreen draws the spectator into a desire toward a nowhere but here. Trinh’s film illustrates how to disidentify , as José Esteban Muñoz (1999) has termed, movement from the logics of capital through the aesthetics of boredom, a vitality that charges the body in excess of well-­ laid trajectories of extraction. In his wandering gaze and fidgeting posture, the robed figure is constantly moving, disclosing a laconic unruliness that cannot be entirely incorporated into the state-­ sponsored image of order and development. Opposed to the euphoric and/or cinematic scenes that have dominated the visual economy of Vietnam over the last half-­ century, the camera catches a withdrawal from rather than a magnetic pull into the developmental success stories of market socialism. Attending to what Neferti Tadiar (2013) has called the “life-­ times of disposability,” Forgetting Vietnam interrogates the teleology of capitalist, liberal progress by urging the viewer to “forget” the Figure 2. “Sea dreaming its solitude.” Still from Forgetting Vietnam. Codex 37 sensory modes that have expropriated motion and incorporated postwar Vietnam, and Southeast Asia as a whole, into the global market. Since the shift to market socialism at the Sixth National Congress in 1986, Vietnam has been at the center of directing transpacific flows of capital into Southeast Asia. From the early 1990s onward, the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, and Singapore, whose late capitalist economies increasingly relied on the export of construction contracts and accumulation of real estate abroad, speculated on value that could be accrued from Vietnam’s newly available “abundance of petroleum, coal, and natural gas,” “vast coastal properties,” “abundance of . . . low wages,” and “need to rebuild [Vietnam’s] infrastructure,” which had remained in a “state of ruin from the war and years of neglect” (Stauch 1994, 1026). Transpacific speculation imagined a future premised upon the reproduction of a particular image of order and development, otherwise called liberal modernity, to generate value through land accumulation, debt expansion, and the making of surplus populations. State images of order and development extended also onto...

pdf

Share