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4 - Journey From the Fall

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 November 2023

Ron Eyerman
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut and Lunds Universitet, Sweden
Todd Madigan
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Greensboro
Magnus Ring
Affiliation:
Lunds Universitet, Sweden
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Summary

Abstract

Unlike both the Vietnamese communists and the broader American society, the South Vietnamese experienced at the end of the American-Vietnamese War the annihilation of their governmental and political institutions, military forces, economic system, and mode of social organization: their state, the Republic of Vietnam, was simply snuffed out. What’s more—and also in contrast to the communists and the rest of the United States—the individuals who would become Vietnamese Americans were displaced from their homeland to a foreign country. The dissolution of the Republic of Vietnam and the dislocation of the Vietnamese to North America led this group to construct a new collective identity over the course of subsequent years, and the present chapter provides an overview of what the Vietnamese Americans consistently narrate as the key moments of their shared experience.

Keywords: Vietnam War, cultural trauma, collective memory, cultural sociology, Vietnamese American, narrative identity

How did we get to such a lonely place? … I keep looking toward the past…tracing our journey in reverse…over the ocean…through the war…seeking an origin story that will set everything right.

From the graphic novel The Best We Could Do

It should be clear by this point in the book that although the collective memories of the American-Vietnamese War share the same subject matter, the way those memories are narrated within each of our three main social groups differs substantially. In the case of the Vietnamese Americans, to whom we now turn our attention, the most radical differences in terms of content derive in part from two historical peculiarities. First, unlike both the Vietnamese communists and the broader American society, at the end of the war the South Vietnamese experienced the annihilation of their governmental and political institutions, military forces, economic system, and mode of social organization: their state—the Republic of Vietnam—was simply snuffed out. Second, also in contrast to the communists and the rest of the United States, the individuals who would become Vietnamese Americans were displaced from their homeland to a foreign country. As we pointed out in the book’s introduction, when a collectivity understands itself to have suffered a significant calamity, one that fractures its collective identity, then if it is to persist as a collectivity, it must reconstitute its identity.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Journey From the Fall
  • Ron Eyerman, Yale University, Connecticut and Lunds Universitet, Sweden, Todd Madigan, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Magnus Ring, Lunds Universitet, Sweden
  • Book: Vietnam, A War, Not a Country
  • Online publication: 29 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048556397.005
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  • Journey From the Fall
  • Ron Eyerman, Yale University, Connecticut and Lunds Universitet, Sweden, Todd Madigan, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Magnus Ring, Lunds Universitet, Sweden
  • Book: Vietnam, A War, Not a Country
  • Online publication: 29 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048556397.005
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Journey From the Fall
  • Ron Eyerman, Yale University, Connecticut and Lunds Universitet, Sweden, Todd Madigan, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Magnus Ring, Lunds Universitet, Sweden
  • Book: Vietnam, A War, Not a Country
  • Online publication: 29 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048556397.005
Available formats
×