This dissertation examines the crossing of global literary tastes and Vietnamese American culinary writing. Specifically, I argue that Vietnamese American writing illustrates how culinary and literary tastes serve as boundaries that define and manage racial expression across the colonial, anti-imperial, and neoliberal eras. As it is still a nascent genre, Vietnamese American writing has not yet been consolidated formally or critically, and therefore a new generation of writers and actors are actively experimenting with forms that will fuse the experience of refuge with the challenges faced in a racially charged United States. Through a close examination of various literary and cultural texts, I ask how, and, perhaps more importantly, why cuisine has become a popular organizing trope for these diasporic authors to work through the harsh legacies of the colonial project, the US intervention in Vietnam, and refugee life. Using a transnational and comparative approach, I demonstrate how Vietnamese American artists engage their own history of European and American domination by turning to gastronomic literature. I contend this literary movement seeks to reanimate the sensual loss experienced during wartime and the period of refuge in order to articulate a uniquely somatic brand of "Vietnameseness" that can travel across the globe. This literature responds to the commodification of western multiculturalism and the global desire for manageable ethnic difference by providing intimate cultural touchstones that make social positions intelligible without being completely translatable--resetting the terms of transnational cultural contact.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2014. Major: Comparative Literature. Advisor: Keya Ganguly. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 198 pages.
Postcolonial Appetites: Vietnamese American Literature and Refugee Aesthetics.
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