In Camps: Vietnamese Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Repatriates

Lecture format: on site + online.
Room: 2R-EG-07 (lecture hall of the Institute for Eastern European History).
Street address: Spitalgasse 2,  Campus of the University of Vienna, Hof 3.

After the US war in Vietnam, close to 800,000 Vietnamese left the country by boat, survived, and sought refuge throughout Southeast Asia and the Pacific. This is the story of what happened in the camps. In Camps raises key questions that remain all too relevant today: Who is a refugee? Who determines this status? And how does it change over time?

Drawn from archival research in Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the UNHCR, and southern California, In Camps pays close attention to host territories and Vietnamese activism in the camps and the diaspora.

This talk will emphasize local host politics in Guam, Malaysia, and Hong Kong and Vietnamese activism in the camps. It will trace how Vietnamese were transformed from de facto refugees to individual asylum seekers to repatriates.  In Camps emphasizes the contingencies inherent in refugee policy and the contradictions that arose between humanitarianism and human rights. These stories have implications for regional refugee policy making today, the practice and proliferation of detention, and the possibilities of diasporic networks and activism.

Jana Lipman is Professor of History at Tulane University and is a scholar of U.S. foreign relations, U.S. immigration, and labor history. While Professor Lipman's research spans numerous geographies, from Cuba to Hong Kong, at its core it investigates the local histories of diplomatic politics. Her first monograph Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution (University of California Press, 2009) was on Cuban and US relations. Professor Limpan's new book In Camps: Vietnamese Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, and Repatriates (University of California Press, 2020), reveals how first asylum sites (places that hosted refugee camps) “pushed” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to reshape international refugee policy.