Southeast Asia Studies Seminar series: “Refugee Worlding: Vietnamese American (dis)place-making since 1975”

Event time: 
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Henry R. Luce Hall (LUCE ), 203 See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

Co-sponsored by:
The Council on Southeast Asia Studies
The Program on Refugees, Forced Displacement, and Humanitarian Responses
Yale MacMillan Center

Dr. Ivan V. Small, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Houston

This talk explores Vietnamese migration experiences within the United States after 1975, triangulating the experiences of refugees and migrants shaping their lives and communities across three distinct yet interconnected regions in New England, California, and Texas. It examines transnational financial, migratory and material flows among Vietnamese Americans, and how and why they have contributed to first, secondary and third wave migration patterns. Southeast Asian refugees resettled in the U.S. after the Vietnam War were scattered as part of a dispersion policy intended to culturally assimilate newcomers. By the 1980s, catalyzed by auto-mobile affordances, many had moved to warmer climes with established Asian population nodes – in particular California. Since the 2000s, a third wave of migration has been fueled by new international migration as well as interstate migrants who feel pushed out of California’s expensive housing market. Many are moving to new “ethno-burb” nodes of Asian settlements in the South. I examine transportation, real estate, investment, and entrepreneurship patterns within and across these migrant-scapes and settlements linked and worlded by mobile pasts and futures. Introducing the concept of (dis)place-making, the talk proposes that Southeast Asian American subjectivities are subconsciously shaped by longer histories of repeated displacement(s). Community formations are therefore modeled in part upon the specters and traces of remembered and anticipated places, while concurrently longing to establish roots and presence. This unmoored lens offers insight into the complex and comparative trajectories of migrant aspirations and adaptations that contrast with the emplaced nuclear family centered assimilation models once envisioned by refugee resettlement policy makers.

Ivan V. Small is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Houston. He is author of Currencies of Imagination: Channeling Money and Chasing Mobility in Vietnam (Cornell University Press 2019) and co-editor of Money at the Margins: Global Perspectives on Technology, Financial Inclusion and Design (Berghahn Press 2018). He has written numerous peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, op-eds and other publications examining connections between financial, bodily and material mobilities in and between Southeast Asia and the United States. He has recently held senior visiting fellowships at Fulbright University Vietnam and the Yusof Ishak Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology and Southeast Asian Studies from Cornell University, and a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University.