Ghosts of War in Vietnam

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Overview

This is a fascinating study of the Vietnamese experience and memory of the Vietnam War through the lens of popular imaginings about the wandering souls of the war dead. These ghosts of war play an important part in postwar Vietnamese historical narrative and imagination and Heonik Kwon explores the intimate ritual ties with these unsettled identities which still survive in Vietnam today as well as the actions of those who hope to liberate these hidden but vital historical presences from their uprooted social existence. Taking a unique approach to the cultural history of war, he introduces gripping stories about spirits claiming social justice and about his own efforts to wrestle with the physical and spiritual presence of ghosts. Although these actions are fantastical, this book shows how examining their stories can illuminate critical issues of war and collective memory in Vietnam and the modern world more generally.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The voices of Americans lost, dead, maimed physically or psychologically, fill the bookshelves. For the most part the voices of Vietnamese, living or dead, are unavailable. In his powerfully moving and beautifully written book, 'The Ghosts of War in Vietnam,' Heonik Kwon enables those voices to be heard. The ghosts of Vietnam’s wars are not metaphorical but vital presences through which Vietnamese understand their recent history, reflect on all that has happened since and attempt to resolve the contradictions of the present. These are ghost stories that will haunt you. No other book I have read about contemporary Vietnam so thoroughly, painfully, and intelligently illuminates both the country’s past and present. Ghost of Vietnam is an indispensable book."
- Marilyn Young, New York University

"Through a rich, supple and creative analysis of what the author persuasively argues is the omnipresence of ghosts and ghost stories in wartime and postwar Vietnam, Ghosts of War in Vietnam addresses the complexities of war and memory in Vietnam in ways that will undoubtedly have a transformative impact on the study of the American war in Vietnam, the relationship between decolonization and the Cold War and the nature of historical memory in the post Cold War era. It will without question become one of the indispensable works on war and memory in the modern era."
- Mark Philip Bradley, Northwestern University

"Heonik Kwon has written an outstanding book: Part history, part anthropology, part literary study, it opens up the study of the Vietnam War in a way that no other work of scholarship has done. By giving ghosts of many forms the place they deserve in the Vietnamese tragedy, Kwon tells us much that we need to know about the war, its aftermath, and about issues of death, displacement and commemoration in today’s Vietnamese society."
- OA Westad, Cold War Studies Centre, LSE

"In this extraordinary work Heonik Kwon provides a deeply compelling and consistently insightful account of the attempts by ordinary Vietnamese to free the ghosts of war and offer them a place of habitation. It is at once a powerful and highly original intervention in cold war studies and one of the very best accounts of commemoration as moral and creative practice. A marvelous, virtually pitch-perfect exemplification of anthropological sensibility, this is a book that will be widely read and taught."
- Michael Lambek, Department of Anthropology, LSE

"Highly recommended" -Choice

'unique and revealing'. -New York Review of Books

"Ghosts of War in Vietnam is anthropology at its best. It will without doubt become a classic text of anthropology, and I hope one that is crucial to international relations, religious studies, sociological theory, political science, cold war studies, and conflict, war, and peace studies." -Alpa Shah, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Heonik Kwon is Lecturer at the School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh. He is the author of After the Massacre: Commemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai (2006).

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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Ghosts of war; 2. Mass excavation; 3. Missing in action; 4. The phantom leg; 5. Death in the street; 6. Transforming ghosts; 7. Money for ghosts; Conclusion.

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