Who travels thousands of miles? Gender Dimensions of War Dead Accounting and Memory Making in Post-war Vietnam

Date & Time: May 2, 17:30 -18:30
Location: AB 1079

Description: Dr. Tâm T. T. Ngô, Senior Researcher/Associate Professor at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies, part of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In the last four decades, to find, to identify, and to commemorate more than half a million fallen soldiers who died for the Vietnamese state in the three international wars that the country fought in the twentieth century, nearly the entire Vietnamese population has been mobilized. While the public face of this mass mobilization is dominantly male, the private and intimate driving force behind this work of war accounting and war memory making is saliently female. Millions of Vietnamese mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters who have been waiting, grieving, and mourning for their sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers who did not return when the wars ended. In addition to emotional pain and the psychological anguish of not knowing the faith of a missing loved one, these women also had to deal with the social, economic, legal and familial implication of the absence of their men, and often had to deal with these issues in a social context laden with patriarchal values and hierarchies. Since the 1990s, many of them joined the search for the remains and the spirits of their fallen men. This presentation sketches out a few among those million journeys to search for their male missing relatives and voice women’s perspectives about warfare and its human cost. In so doing, it aims to go beyond the uncomfortable yet established link between war and gender to restore the agentive power of women in keeping memory, healing wound and suturing the social fabrics torn by war violence.