HOME DEPO[R]T: [Un]Documented nostalgia and memories in Vietnamese/American diasporic stories at the center of [Re]Alienation
Viet Thanh Nguyen poignantly yet hauntingly recognizes that “all wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory” (Nothing Ever Dies 4). The Việt Nam War continues to produce untold ghost stories, or stories from Vietnamese refugees and war survivors who continue to live in the margins and elsewhere, obscured and stilled into ghastly silence as their stories remain untold and undocumented. In this dissertation, divided into three different articles, but with strands threading and intersecting with each other, I examine the many haunted, and haunting, memories and stories of Vietnamese refugees as they become displaced ghosts or citizens inhabiting within the geopolitical borders surrounding the diaspora. The first article is an ethnomusicological and oral historical exploration and rereading of pre-1975 Vietnamese diasporic music. I examine how that compilation of sounds, lyrics, and notes become rhapsodic artifacts to re-member South Vietnamese veterans. Vietnamese music produced and written during the pre-1975 Việt Nam War era are heard as sounds of echoic re-memories during dislocation and displacement. The second article frames an intimate oral historical narrative about my mother and her memories of surviving, navigating, and living through the war as a young South Vietnamese woman who was essentially an invisible citizen. Survivalism during the war should not be gendered, but the war’s ethos centralizes on men’s nationalistic badges of honor while women are left behind. The third article, like the first article, continues to retrace the diasporic sounds of Vietnamese music from the pre-1975 era, while specifically focusing on the lyrics and unsettling images of boats and water, evoking the moment when former Vietnamese citizens became refugees who escaped by boat. In Vietnamese, nước can mean water, nation, country, and homeland, showing a perpetual disconnect and precarity among refugees living in exiled displacement and the continual im/migratory plight of refugees as their memories and stories travel somewhere. Together, the three papers explore the weighted complexities of re-memories, identities, citizenships, wars, displacement, resettlement, ghosts, pervasive hauntology, ethnomusicology, and colonialism.