One significant ghost: Agent Orange narratives of trauma, survival, and responsibility
For nearly 50 years, scientists and politicians have debated the human consequences of the wartime use of toxic chemicals in Viet Nam. In 2002, the American ambassador to Vietnam called Agent Orange "the one significant ghost" remaining from the war; the Vietnamese Vice-Minister for Science, Technology, and the Environment called it chemical warfare.This dissertation seeks to add another set of voices to the conversation: the voices of people from the north, center, and south of Viet Nam selected by the Vietnamese Red Cross as likely to have been affected by those chemicals. How do these men and women and their communities describe, interpret, and cope with the disabilities they have faced since the end of the war? What hopes do they have? What reflections do they ask to have conveyed to those beyond their villages, in particular to those responsible for the use of chemicals in war? How are their narratives similar to and different from on-going public discourses on the effects of dioxin in Viet Nam?This work is intended as a contribution towards bringing the voices of those thought to be suffering from exposure to Agent Orange into public discussions on the consequences of chemical warfare. By presenting the interviews as fully as I can, with their hesitations, misunderstandings, and interviewee questions put to the interviewer, I hope to provide a complex, nuanced reading that will contribute to explorations of how to avoid a voyeuristic, distancing gaze in representing victims and survivors of mass violence. My work has been shaped by readings in history and memory, and by studies on suffering, violence, and trauma, and has benefited from discussions in science and technology studies.Semi-structured, open-ended interviews, participant observation, and textual and discourse analysis are the main methods employed to examine these questions. While it is difficult to find a language that is adequate to the topic in scope, complexity, sensitivity and nuance, silence is not an ethical option.
- Anthropology