Fiftieth anniversaries of dates important to the war in the American war Vietnam are renewing interest in the war, and generating new studies and controversies over how the war should be remembered.
The recent award of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature to him for his novel The Sympathizer, about the power of Vietnamese diasporic culture to gin counterrevolutionary fantasies of going back to retake Vietnam from the communists, leaves little doubt that lost causes don’t always stay lost.
For sociologists and anthropologists studies like these are valuable for what we learn from them about social memory and the power of representation.
Subsequently, historians and leaders of the antiwar community launched their own initiative to insure the fullest possible accounting of not only what the U. did in Vietnam during the war years but costs of the destruction left behind. Much less, is there any recognition that the Vietnamese themselves have their own commemorative practices and memorial traditions.
As is typical of American insularity, interest in—or even awareness of—commemorations of the war that might go on in other countries like Australia or South Korea that fought on the U. Thus, it is with all the more interest that we receive news from Chuck Searcy reporting a controversy erupting over Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) plans to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Long Tan, near the coastal resort of Vung Tau, where an outnumbered ANZAC force held off fighters of the National Liberation Front (aka the Vietnam Cong) 50 years ago. veteran of the war who leads Project Renew, an organization in Vietnam dedicated to the removal of landmines and bombs left behind by the U. At this link he provides his own commentary on the Long Tan controversy and includes some additional news clips about the affair.
But historians need to engage them more critically for their power to rewrite the historical record. The counter-poised ideas that Saigon was a freestanding and sovereign entity that had invited-in U. involvement, and that North Vietnam was, thereby, an invading national “other” that needed to be repelled, were discredited as fictions.
For a while, after the dust of the war itself had settled, scholars were pretty widely agreed that the Saigon government was a client regime installed by the United States and kept in place by U. The diaspora “lost cause” literature is the expression of that fiction.
By 1949, two new states had formed on the Korean peninsula.
In the south, the anti-communist dictator Syngman Rhee (1875-1965) had the reluctant support of the American government, while in the north, the communist dictator Kim Il Sung (1912-1994) appeared to have the support of the Soviets.
As with the title of Nguyen’s book, many of the commemoration studies are framed by the diaspora experience of former residents of South Vietnam who were partisans of the Saigon government.
Looking Back on the Vietnam War, a 2016 collection edited by English professors Brenda Boyle and Jeehyun Lim, contains chapter-length examples of these studies.