Evyn Espiritu

Troubling Humanitarian Discourses: Vietnamese Refugee Diaspora in Guam and Israel

In order to trace interlocking dynamics of settler colonialism, U.S. empire, and refugee displacement, my dissertation examines the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees on Guam and Israel—two understudied sites of Vietnamese diaspora. From 23 April to 1 November 1975, the U.S. hosted Operation New Life on Guam: a processing center that housed over 111,000 Vietnamese refugees. From 1977 to 1979, Israel granted asylum and citizenship to 369 Vietnamese refugees. What these two gestures of humanitarianism elide, however, is the structure of settler colonialism that enabled these acts: U.S. military occupation of Chamorro land and Israeli settlement of Palestinian land. By focusing on the figure of the Vietnamese refugee that links these two sites, I examine not only circuits of empire—how the U.S. war in Vietnam is linked to its imperial conquest of the Pacific islands and its strategic support of Israel in the Middle East—but also circuits of solidarity—how native Chamorro claims for sovereignty and Palestinian movements for justice are connected through the Vietnamese refugee figure.