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The Politics of Care: Historical Retrieval in Vietnamese American Cultural Production

Dinh, Thaomi Michelle. The Politics of Care: Historical Retrieval in Vietnamese American Cultural Production. 2021. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

My dissertation examines care in post-war Vietnamese American cultural production. I argue that care is a significant method of historical retrieval that resists dominant understandings of time, gender, and political action. Vietnamese refugees have often been portrayed as a problem to be solved or objects to prop up liberal narratives. Dominant American history operates on linear time, pushing narratives of progress onto refugees and the post-war generation to draw attention away from imperial violence in the building of the U.S. empire. Drawing upon Asian American studies, women of color feminism, and feminist refugee epistemologies, I argue that post-war Vietnamese American cultural production resists liberal time’s desire for closure by calling attention to the ongoing violence on refugee and immigrant communities. To think about how the post-war generation responds to that history of war—being from that history, but not defined by it—I consider how cultural producers preserve history to take care of the communities that existed before us, and the ones that will come after. Taking multiple forms, care links individual trauma to a larger community and gives us a path to retrieve history. In the simplest terms, care allows Vietnamese American communities to form caring communities and envision caring futures.

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