Refugee and settler: Michele Janette, ‘Dao Strom’s Grass Roof, Tin Roof as Settler Refugee Critique’, Western American Literature, 57, 4, 2023, pp. 399-422


Excerpt: As the fiftieth anniversary of the “Fall of Saigon” approaches, and as the global displacement of peoples has persisted and indeed accelerated during these past five decades, two new developments in Asian American and refugee studies have emerged to help us, in the words of Aimee Bahng, “stay in the game and face the end times ethically” (Aimee Bahng and Thea Nagle). Scholars such as Evyn Lê Espiritu Gandhi, Candace Fujikane, Jonathan Okamura, Quynh Nhu Le, Dean Saranillio, Juliana Hu Pegues, and Iyko Day have begun to map the terrain of what Gandhi calls the “distinct yet overlapping modalities of refugee and Indigenous displacement, shaped by entangled histories of war, imperialism, settler colonialism, and US military violence” (2). Concurrently, the insights of Vietnamese diasporic artists and scholars who write from and through the expertise of refugees themselves have become increasingly important to navigating the complex, diasporic, transnational, and migratory futures that face us all. Scholars such as YӃn Lê Espiritu, Mimi Thi Nguyen, Long Bui, Catherine Fung, Marguerite Nguyen, Lan Duong, Ma Vang, and Viet Thanh Nguyen as well as writers and language artists such as Monique Truong, Bao Phi, Aimee Phan, Beth Nguyen, Lan Cao, and—again, this time in his role as Pulitzer Prize–winning fiction writer—Viet Thanh Nguyen, have proffered paradigm shifts in understanding refugees not as helpless victims in need of rescue by mighty nation-states, but as astute yet insufficiently recognized observers and critics of geopolitical and social dynamics who themselves understand the offer of refuge itself not as simple humanitarian generosity but also as a self-aggrandizing global alibi for continuing harm.

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