The American War in Contemporary Vietnam

The American War in Contemporary Vietnam

Transnational Remembrance and Representation
Christina Schwenkel
Distribution: World
Publication date: 6/19/2009
Format: paper 280 pages, 41 b&w photos
6.125 x 9.25 x .6875
ISBN: 978-0-253-22076-9
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Description

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.

Author Bio

Christina Schwenkel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside.

Reviews

"A significant achievement, and one that does much to demonstrate the complexity of sites of war memory. . . . [Offers insights] that have an eerie resonance for today's political debates over the purpose and legitimacy of U.S. actions in the Middle East." —Geoffrey White, University of Hawaii

"The study of memory has been a common pursuit of historians of war and its aftermath, but Christina Schwenkel’s insightful and brilliantly written ethnography of the visual, political and semiotic processes that shape memory in Vietnam offers a new and transnational dimension to the field. Going far beyond the simple dichotomy of looking at 'both sides' of the war, her study of the commemorative concerns of both Americans and Vietnamese reveals the deep ambivalence over their 'shared history' and offers a profound window onto the present contemporary Vietnamese reality." —Nora A. Taylor, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

"Anthropologist Schwenkel (Univ. of California, Riverside) addresses perhaps one of the most compelling transnational events in history. For one nation, the event was crucial as a foundation from which to challenge the great meta-narratives of modern times; from the perspective of another nation, it validated a version of modernity thickly embedded in local experiences of colonialism. Whether it is the 'Vietnam' War or the 'American' War, Schwenkel illustrates the continuing aftereffects of these histories as living memories in the ethnographic present of Vietnam. Fieldwork takes place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as well as Hue and Vinh cities. This multi-sited ethnography includes experiences of mobility back and forth between Vietnam and the US that generates this transnational ethnography of knowledge production and memory-making "undergoing globalizing conditions." The final result is a compelling and rare ethnographic portrait of a historically determined out-of-the-way place revealing postmodern conditions of globalizing capital undergoing locally situated revisions—in this case, toward a 'market economy with social orientation.' Fascinating and a must for all readers interested in the present and the past as it is constituted in memory. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. — Choice" —S. Ferzacca, University of Lethbridge, May 2010

". . . a compelling and rare ethnographic portrait of a historically determined out-of-the-way place revealing postmodern conditions of globalizing capital undergoing locally situated revisions—in this case, toward a 'market economy with social orientation.' Fascinating and a must for all readers interested in the present and the past as it is constituted in memory. . . . Essential." —
Choice

"This is a lucid, original, and extremely well-written book, further enriched by its many

arresting illustrations of Vietnam’s remarkable memorializing aesthetics. What Schwenkel has achieved is both a sophisticated addition to our rapidly growing ethnographic literature on ‘late-socialist’ Vietnam and a major contribution to the anthropology of memory, globalization, and postcolonial cultural power relations." —
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"This book provides a great healing and revealing experience for any survivor or student of the Vietnam era." —On Point

"Schwenkel's rich empirical data offer a Vietnamese present that is as much haunted by the future as the past. . . . [She] has provided a compelling portrait of contemporary Vietnam and an important tool to interrogate the forces that shape transnational memory projects, conditioning contests over what counts as, and who can speak, the truth." —South East Asia Research

"In the depth of its research, the originality of its arguments, and the lucidity of its prose, Christina Schwenkel's engaging new book makes an outstanding contribution to the recent literature on transnational remembrance, whether in Vietnam or elsewhere. . . . [T]his is a work that deserves a wide readership within and outside of the academy." —H-Diplo

"With its wide-ranging fieldwork and deft integration of insights from the literature on the politics and dynamics of memory, The American War in Contemporary Vietnam will be an important source for scholars of memory, war, tourism, and visual representation. It will also spark classroom discussion of how contemporary economic and political circumstances shape the lessons we take from the past." —American Anthropologist , Vol. 112, No. 4, December 2010

"[This book] makes a compelling, significant, and long-overdue contribution to a growing body of recent scholarship that is interrogating the Vietnam War—or American War—in increasingly innovative and complicated ways. . . . It is essential reading, and it is difficult to imagine teaching a course on the legacy of U.S. involvement in Indochina without including it." —
H-1960s

"The American War in Contemporary Vietnam is essential reading for anyone teaching or wanting to understand Vietnam today and would be useful in teaching seminars or upper-level courses on Vietnam, Asia, memory, and history, as well as discussions of ethnographic methodology

" —American Ethnologist

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on Use of Diacritics
List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Remembering (in) Vietnam

Part 1. Reconciliatory Projects
1. Return to Vietnam: Redemption, Reconciliation, and Salvation
2. Exhibiting War, Reconciling Pasts: Photojournalism and Divergent Visual Histories
Part 2. Memorial Landscapes
3. Commodified Memories and Embodied Experiences of War
4. Monumentalizing War: Toward a New Aesthetics of Memory
Part 3. Incommensurable Pasts
5. Contested Truths: Museums and Regimes of Representation and
Objectivity
6. Tortured Bodies and the Neoliberal Politics of Historical Unaccountability

Conclusion: Empires of Memory and Knowledge Production

Notes
Works Cited
Index
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