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Becoming Refugee AmericanThe Politics of Rescue in Little Saigon$
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Phuong Tran Nguyen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041358

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041358.001.0001

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A Nation of Refugees

(p.1) Introduction
Becoming Refugee American

Phuong Tran Nguyen

University of Illinois Press

The introduction lays out the main theoretical and narrative elements of the book. Because of its failure during the Vietnam War, the US has a vested interest in highlighting its more virtuous role in evacuating and resettling refugees. But what about the refugees? We know far more about the causes of their exodus and the national guilt of the receiving country than how the uprooted collectively made sense of their experience after arriving in the United States. This chapter explains the cultural stakes of exile identity—which in this book goes by the term refugee nationalism, specifically who gets to interpret a nation’s past, who gets to be on the right of history, and who gets to be on the wrong side of history. Cold War politics presented an opportunity for Refugee Americans—most of whom fled communist countries—to freely teach and institutionalize their version of the national past at the local, state, and national level, placing themselves on the right side of history without fear of diplomatic reprisals. This chapter emphasizes the importance of local factors in shaping the look and feel of refugee nationalism, how the Orange County plays into it, and then proceeds with a summary of the next six chapters.

Keywords:   politics of rescue, refugee, exile, nationalism, collective memory, race, Little Saigon, anticommunism, Vietnamese, American Exceptionalism, Asian American, California, Cold War, postwar

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