The history of U.S. military intervention in Southeast Asia complicates attempts to center Southeast Asian refugees in public commemorative spaces. Southeast Asian refugees remind the American nation of a tumultuous and divisive era, a morally questionable and unsuccessful war, and the humiliation of military withdrawal and defeat. The Missing Piece Project is an annual staging of a collective intervention that symbolically and physically disrupts American remembrance (and erasure) of the Vietnam War. The Missing Piece Project calls for a collective dedication of objects at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. each April 30 by marginalized communities still affected by legacies of the war. Two pilot dedications at the Wall have occurred in 2018 and 2019, as well as virtual dedication in 2020. The annual dedications continue each April 30, building towards a large-scale collective gathering on April 30, 2025, the 50th anniversary of the war’s “end” and the beginning of many refugee journeys that continue today. There are no Cambodian, Lao, Hmong, or Vietnamese names on the Wall. Framed in the nationalist context of the Washington Mall, this memorial conveniently “forgets” the Southeast Asians involved in this conflict (both civilians and veterans alike) and “remembers” American veterans as the primary victims of war. This presentation will examine the Missing Piece Project’s trajectory thus far and diverse reactions to the project from the National Park Service staff, American veterans, the archive staff, academic scholars, and Vietnamese American community members of different generations.
Speaker: Dr. Kim Nguyen Tran
is the leader of the Missing Piece Project. She is a lecturer in Ethnomusicology, Asian American Studies, and Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA.
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