A/P/A Graduate Student Working Group: Jacinda Tran
- Venue: 20 Cooper Square, 3rd floor, Room 372
20 Cooper Square, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10003 United States
- Website: View Venue Website
Accessibility note: This venue has an elevator and is accessible for wheelchair users. There are single-stall, all gender restrooms available. If you have any access needs, please include them on the registration form or email email@example.com.
“Visualizing Warfare through Disability, Race, and the Family in the Aftermath of Vietnam”
In 1985, Audrey Tiernan — a white photojournalist from Long Island, New York — went to Vietnam to document a story on Amerasian children fathered and abandoned by US militiamen as the “forgotten victims” of the so-called Vietnam War. In Hồ Chí Minh City, Tiernan photographed Lê Van Minh, a half-white Vietnamese child with polio, and the publication of his image in Newsday led to the legislation of the 1988 Amerasian homecoming Act. This paper examines Tiernan’s photographic encounters with Minh, and the process of his abstraction into a “symbol of cooperation” to “humanize” and re-masculinize the US state: not as a deadbeat father who abandoned his children abroad and lost the war, but as a benevolent benefactor over a decade after withdrawing from Vietnam. Tran argues that Lê Van Minh’s adoption necessitated his legibility as white — a condition made possible only through the visual authority of Americans. Through this lens, Minh’s staged “rescue” (i.e. kidnapping) upheld and redefined the mandates of liberal humanism and continued warfare.
Image: Lê Văn Minh in the arms of Rep. Robert Mrazek (D-NY). Photographed by Audrey Tiernan, Newsday (1987).