In existing scholarship, the formation of the Vietnamese Diaspora is often described as a result of the Second Indochina War. In this essay I examine other national and international historical events, such as the Vietnamese government's persecution of ethnic Chinese, the Cold War and French colonization of Vietnam, that contributed to the internal multiplicity and diversity of the Vietnamese Diaspora. Reading Thuận's novel Chinatown within the theoretical framework of freedom, I argue that a centuries-long history of political negotiation between Vietnam and international actors such as China and France has resulted in the oppression, internal exile and displacement of not only Vietnamese people, but also ethnic Chinese. Through an analysis of the relationship between the Vietnamese narrator and her ethnic Chinese husband, I reflect on the difficulties and potential of diasporic subjects to imagine a different kind of freedom that can challenge the different power dynamics regulating their life in both Vietnam and in the diaspora.
Living Without Quê: The Ethnic Minority and Freedom in Thuận's Chinatown
Anh Thang Dao was born in Vietnam and grew up in Poland and Germany. She received her PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. Dao's dissertation, titled “Writing Exile: Vietnamese Literature in the Diaspora,” conceptualizes a deterritorialized notion of exile through the example of Vietnamese diasporic literature in the United States, France and Germany. Her scholarly interests include theories of transnationalism, exile and diaspora, memory studies as well as Asian and Vietnamese diasporic literature and culture. The author would like to thank Viet Thanh Nguyen, Mariam Lam and Alexander Cannon for their valuable comments at various stages of this essay.
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Anh Thang Dao; Living Without Quê: The Ethnic Minority and Freedom in Thuận's Chinatown. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 August 2012; 7 (3): 55–79. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2012.7.3.55
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