After the Vietnam War ended in 1974, the refugees from Southeast Asia risked their lives traveling across the Pacific Ocean in order to escape from the political persecution of communism in their home countries and look for a better life in North America. What has their “American Dream” come to be?
Without the experiences of Exclusion Laws and racial discriminations that early Asian immigrant groups have had during the first half of the twentieth century, how are the diasporic experiences of Southeast Asian immigrants different from other Asian ethnicities like Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Filipinos? In Lan Cao’s _Monkey Bridge_, the narrator Mai Nguyen describes Vietnamese immigrants in America: “Not only could we become anything we wanted to be in America, we could change what we had once been in Vietnam. Rebirthing the past, we called it, claiming what had once been a power reserved only for gods and other immortal beings.”
How do these Southeast Asian immigrants accommodate themselves to a new life? How do their younger generations identify themselves in North America? Pioneer Southeast Asian American writers like Lan Cao, Monique Thuy-Dung Truong, Le Ly Hayslip, Lę Thi Diem Thúy, T. C. Huo, Lawrence Chua, etc. have initiated this dialogue in their literary expression and addressed the voice of Southeast Asian diaspora.
This panel invites papers discussing the voice of Southeast Asian diaspora, including but not limited to Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Hmongs, Thais, and Burmese. We will be discussing how these diasporic groups inscribe their North American experiences and sociopolitical issues—their joy and sorrow, their assimilation, their homesickness, their reinvention of identity and history, etc. Any disciplines and approaches are welcome: literary studies, cultural studies, anthropology, history, sociology, psychology, and the like.
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