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Though a generation has passed since the massacre of civilians at My Lai, the legacy of this tragedy continues to reverberate throughout Vietnam and the rest of the world. This engrossing study considers how Vietnamese villagers in My Lai and Ha My--a village where South Korean troops committed an equally appalling, though less well-known, massacre of unarmed civilians--assimilate the catastrophe of these mass deaths into their everyday ritual life. Based on a detailed study of local history and moral practices, After the Massacre focuses on the particular context of domestic life in which the Vietnamese villagers interact with their ancestors on one hand and the ghosts of tragic death on the other. Heonik Kwon explains what intimate ritual actions can tell us about the history of mass violence and the global bipolar politics that caused it. He highlights the aesthetics of Vietnamese commemorative rituals and the morality of their practical actions to liberate the spirits from their grievous history of death. The author brings these important practices into a critical dialogue with dominant sociological theories of death and symbolic transformation.
In this conceptually bold project, Heonik Kwon uses anthropology to interrogate the cold war's cultural and historical narratives. Adopting a truly panoramic view of local politics and international events, he challenges the notion that the cold war was a global struggle fought uniformly around the world and that the end of the war marked a radical, universal rupture in modern history. Incorporating comparative ethnographic study into a thorough analysis of the period, Kwon upends cherished ideas about the global and their hold on contemporary social science. His narrative describes the slow decomposition of a complex social and political order involving a number of local and culturally creative processes. While the nations of Europe and North America experienced the cold war as a time of "long peace," postcolonial nations entered a different reality altogether, characterized by vicious civil wars and other exceptional forms of violence. Arguing that these events should be integrated into any account of the era, Kwon captures the first sociocultural portrait of the cold war in all its subtlety and diversity.