This special issue claims Southeast Asian/American studies as a unique site for scholarly engagements with US empire and its professions of liberal humanism as well as its practices of neoliberal violence. Dissolving the disciplinary distinctions between Southeast Asia area studies and Asian American studies, the authors construct transnational analytic methods to examine new assemblages of nations and states, refugees and residents, migrations and returns.
The contributors represent a new generation of scholars, some of whom are themselves migrants and refugees, who seek to reinvent the study of displaced populations and their diasporas. One essay considers the historical production of the refugee soldier during the “secret wars” of Laos. An ethnography of Southeast Asian American youth protests post-9/11 reveals how neoliberal rationalization of “personal responsibility” created a context for both deportation and the youth movement against it. Several contributions explore concepts of exile, belonging, and the nation-state via media representations of masculinity and the erotic, including the Hmong actors who appear in Clint Eastwood’s film Gran Torino, campy pan-Asian boy bands, and Vietnam Idol, a reality show that, like its British and American counterparts, illustrates specific cultural imagination and national ambitions.
Fiona I. B. Ngô and Mimi Thi Nguyen are both assistant professors of gender and women’s studies and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Nguyen is the author of The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages and a co-editor of Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America, both also published by Duke University Press.
Contributors: Diem-My T. Bui, Long Bui, Thang Dao, Ly Chong Thong Jalao, Soo Ah Kwon, Mariam B. Lam, Viet Le, Fiona I.B. Ngô, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Viet Thanh Nguyen,
Louisa Schein, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Va-Megn Thoj, Khatharya Um, Julie Thi Underhill, Bee Vang, Ma Vang