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Normalizing Vietnam : Vietnam veterans and the reconstruction of postwar U.S.-Vietnam relations, 1985--2010

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Item Summary

Title: Normalizing Vietnam : Vietnam veterans and the reconstruction of postwar U.S.-Vietnam relations, 1985--2010
Authors: Do, Bich Ngoc
Keywords: Vietnam War
Issue Date: Aug 2011
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [August 2011]
Abstract: The end of the Vietnam War in 1975 greatly estranged Vietnam and America which placed major cultural, humanitarian, and diplomatic barriers to realizing the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations twenty years later. This research project examines how this diplomatic event has been made possible, facilitated and reinforced with Vietnam veterans' efforts to "normalize" Vietnam in American public memory. At the same time, they helped make America's economic and cultural concepts acceptable, necessary, and "normal" to the Vietnamese people.
Because the U.S.'s political hostility toward Vietnam after the war involved the imagination of Vietnam as an abstract enemy and uncooperative people, the Vietnam veterans discussed in this dissertation managed to re-image the Vietnamese people as shared victims, pro-Western friends, cooperative, loyal, and potentially instrumental people to America's interests. Their efforts not only helped to justify and enhance the normalization, but also reconstructed themselves as altruists, reformers of Vietnam's polity, as noble and benevolent men. In this process of remaking Vietnam and rewriting memories to facilitate the normalization, these Vietnam veterans--including the Vietnam veterans authors and humanists at the William Joiner Center, James Webb, Mike Boehm, the veteran-turned-philanthropist and project manager of My Lai Peace Projects, and Pete Peterson, the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam--framed their agenda or found their project reframed within the U.S.'s policy to incorporate postwar Vietnam into America's new world order of neoliberal political economy.
The normalization decision in 1995, which extended the U.S.'s engagement in "Normalizing Vietnam," I argue, in fact involves a revision of historical memory in which American soldiers are recast as the moral, humane, and fellow victims with the Vietnamese people. Vietnam veterans are reconstructed as the manly and benevolent carriers of America's fundamental ideology--liberty, democracy, and market capitalism. Not only did they actively contribute to the implementation of U.S.-Vietnam postwar relations by helping to "normalize" Vietnam in America's image, they also helped to redeem America and reinforce American hegemony in Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia, could be viewed as a cultural as well as a political process.
"Normalizing Vietnam," I argue, in fact involves a revision of historical memory in which American soldiers are recast as the moral, humane, and fellow victims with the Vietnamese people. Vietnam veterans are reconstructed as the manly and benevolent carriers of America's fundamental ideology--liberty, democracy, and market capitalism. Not only did they actively contribute to the implementation of U.S.-Vietnam postwar relations by helping to "normalize" Vietnam in America's image, they also helped to redeem America and reinforce American hegemony in Southeast Asia.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/101613
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - American Studies



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