How gender shapes cultural production in Viet Nam and its diaspora
Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism
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Lan P. Duong
A title in the American Literatures Initiative.
Treacherous Subjects is a provocative and thoughtful examination of Vietnamese films and literature viewed through a feminist lens. Lan Duong investigates the postwar cultural productions of writers and filmmakers, including Tony Bui, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Tran Anh Hung.
Taking her cue from the double meaning of "collaborator," Duong shows how history has shaped the loyalties and shifting alliances of the Vietnamese, many of whom are caught between opposing/constricting forces of nationalism, patriarchy, and communism. Working at home and in France and the United States, the artists profiled in Treacherous Subjects have grappled with the political and historic meanings of collaboration. These themes, which probe into controversial issues of family and betrayal, figure heavily in fictions such as the films The Scent of Green Papaya and Surname Viet Given Name Nam.
As writers and filmmakers collaborate, Duong suggests that they lay the groundwork for both transnational feminist politics and queer critiques of patriarchy.
"Treacherous Subjects offers a new reading of literary and filmic texts by Vietnamese and Vietnamese diasporics that rethinks the nation in its gendered, sexualized, and political economic representations. Duong argues that Vietnamese writers and filmmakers from Vietnam, France, and the U.S. evoke the family to imagine the body politic, which is now a transnational one. Duong's methods are very innovative. In each chapter, she pairs works by artists in different national contexts. Her approach allows for new ways to think through a number of issues with political import. I know of few books that put forth this reading which problematizes the nation and its heteronormative boundaries as effectively as this work does."
"[The book] makes a considerable and commendable contribution to the interdisciplinary fields of Asian-American literary studies, Southeast Asian-American studies, and American cultural studies.... Treacherous Subjects confirms and extends the field’s multidisciplinary vistas by way of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American cultural production, which include film, literature, and popular culture.... [It] skillfully juxtaposes the divergent critical receptions of such work vis-à-vis domestic and internationalist politics."
"Treacherous Subjects productively expand[s] the geographies of American literature by looking at not only discursive but also material circulations of women across oceans.... Duong offer[s] much food for thought in relation to feminism, cultural production, and the collisions of knowledge produced by area and ethnic studies…. [She] demonstrate[s] how writing and art mediates the construction of femininity on a transnational scale, where the former ‘third world’ is central to understanding current global processes of subjectivity and subjection."
Lan P. Duong is Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside.
In the series
Asian American History and Culture, edited by K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Cathy Schlund-Vials.
Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture, series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi and David Palumbo-Liu, series editors K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Cathy Schlund-Vials continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.