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Y Thien Nguyen

Area(s) of Interest

Sociology of the Cold War, Politics of Memories, Vietnamese Anticommunism and Communism, Social Cleavages and Boundaries, Vietnamese Modernity/Nationalism/Revolution, Oral History, Memories of War

Y Thien Nguyen is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at Northwestern University. He also serves as the Graduate Assistant for the Asian American Studies Program. Empirically, his research focuses on the political-history of Republican Vietnam (1955-1975) and the origins, articulations, and development of South Vietnamese nationalism, anticommunism, and conceptions of modernity, self, and state. He links the political and ideological history of Republican Vietnam with the ideological discourse and political development in Vietnamese America. His research demonstrates how ideals developed during the early years of the First Republic of Vietnam (1955) were reutilized by Vietnamese refugees to construct their communities following the Fall of Saigon (1975).

Theoretically, his project seeks to illuminate mechanisms that allows certain ideas to persist and survive long after the state that progenerated them had fallen. Utilizing the unexplored “Political Study Program”—the existence of which stretches throughout the entire duration of the Republican period—his project aims to demonstrate how ideas once articulated as propaganda by the state becomes a form of “social knowledge” and how ideas taught in this program were reutilized in Vietnamese America.

His data from is drawn from the Southeast Asian Archives at the UCI; oral histories of Vietnamese Americans conducted in Orange County, CA; numerous South Vietnamese and contemporary Vietnamese American newspapers, journals, and books; and archival data attained from his year-long research at Vietnam National Archive II and the General Science Library in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. His work has been presented at the annual Asian American Conferences, the Militarism and Migration Conference in San Diego, and published in the Journal of Asian American Studies

Dissertation: (Exp. 2020) “When State Propaganda Becomes Social Knowledge: Legacies of the Southern Republic.”

Publication: Nguyen, Y Thien. (2018). (Re)making the South Vietnamese Past in America. Journal of Asian American Studies. 21. 65-103. 10.1353/jaas.2018.0003.

Abstract: This article views Vietnamese anticommunism as a historical institution designed to bolster the legitimacy of the Republic of Vietnam, and argues that political and violent aspects of South Vietnamese nation-building continue to shape and influence contemporary Vietnamese American politics. It explores the rise and decline of the underresearched Homeland Restoration (Phục Quốc) movement, which dominated Vietnamese American politics during the 1980s. It demonstrates how this movement shaped the contours of Vietnamese American politics and aided the consolidation of anticommunism as the dominant form of community politics. By binding cultural politics of Vietnamese Americans to concrete historical processes, this article illustrates the need for the scholarship on Vietnamese Americans to integrate issues of power, politics, and conflict into the analysis of diasporic and refugee collective memories.

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