War, Women, Vietnam: The Mobilization of Female Images, 1954-1978
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This dissertation proceeds with two profoundly interwoven goals in mind: mapping the experience of women in the Vietnam War and evaluating the ways that ideas about women and gender influenced the course of American involvement in Vietnam. I argue that between 1954 and 1978, ideas about women and femininity did crucial work in impelling, sustaining, and later restraining the American mission in Vietnam. This project evaluates literal images such as photographs, film and television footage as well as images evoked by texts in the form of news reports, magazine articles, and fiction, focusing specifically on images that reveal deeply gendered ways of seeing and representing the conflict for Americans. Some of the images I consider include a French nurse known as the Angel of Dien Bien Phu, refugees fleeing for southern Vietnam in 1954, the first lady of the Republic of Vietnam Madame Nhu, and female members of the National Liberation Front. Juxtaposing images of American women, I also focus on the figure of the housewife protesting American atrocities in Vietnam and the use of napalm, and images wrought by American women intellectuals that shifted focus away from the military and toward the larger social and psychological impact of the war.
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