The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages (Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies)

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9780822352228: The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages (Next Wave: New Directions in Women's Studies)

In The Gift of Freedom, Mimi Thi Nguyen develops a new understanding of contemporary United States empire and its self-interested claims to provide for others the advantage of human freedom. Bringing together critiques of liberalism with postcolonial approaches to the modern cartography of progress, Nguyen proposes "the gift of freedom" as the name for those forces that avow to reverence aliveness and beauty, and to govern an enlightened humanity, while producing new subjects and actions—such as a grateful refugee, or enduring war—in an age of liberal empire. From the Cold War to the global war on terror, the United States simultaneously promises the gift of freedom through war and violence and administers the debt that follows. Focusing here on the figure of the Vietnamese refugee as the twice-over target of the gift of freedom—first through war, second through refuge—Nguyen suggests that the imposition of debt precludes the subjects of freedom from escaping those colonial histories that deemed them "unfree." To receive the gift of freedom then is to be indebted to empire, perhaps without end.

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About the Author:

Mimi Thi Nguyen is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is a coeditor of Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America, also published by Duke University Press.

Review:

"The Gift of Freedom is a dazzling book. Focusing on the figure of the Vietnamese refugee as a key to comprehending how the rhetoric of U.S. liberalism and freedom became hegemonic during the Cold War and in the contemporary post-9/11 period, Mimi Thi Nguyen offers an original approach to rethinking Cold War politics and U.S. liberal freedom."—David L. Eng, author of The Feeling of Kinship: Queer Liberalism and the Racialization of Intimacy

"The product of strikingly incisive thinking, The Gift of Freedom is a luminous theoretical contribution to our understanding of the terms and tactics of liberal modernity."—Kandice Chuh, author of Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique

The Gift of Freedom is a bold, rich and sophisticated study providing significant contribution to current literature. . . . It forges new ground in the burgeoning disciplines of Vietnamese and Vietnamese American Studies while advancing the fields of memory studies, affect studies, refugee studies,and cultural studies, offering powerful insights into the far-reaching,inescapable hold that the gift of freedom has over all our precarious lives.” (LongT.Bui Journal of Vietnamese Studies)

“Nguyen provides a well-reasoned justification for considering refugees as figures instead of subjects. . . . The book unfolds a compelling, if cynical, story of how thoroughly power functions.” (Thy Phu Pacific Affairs)

“In writing about Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen actually helps us to grow links with studies of Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim racialization in and outside of the United States, as well as other assemblages of subjects that might also find themselves the targets in new wars for freedom.”  (Sylvia Shin Huey Chong Journal of Asian American Studies)

“Nguyen’s book is tremendously convincing. [It] is ambitious but soundly conceived and refreshingly well written. This book should prove instructive to scholars in areas where writerly sensitivity—generous engagement with ambiguous texts and the confidence to ask speculative, even oblique questions—is perhaps not as lauded as it should be.” (Nicholas Gamso Women's Studies Quarterly)

“Nguyen offers a refreshing perspective on cultural formations rarely researched in area studies, and The Gift of Freedom is a major contribution to Vietnamese and Vietnamese diasporic studies. As such, this book is recommended to scholars of cultural studies, critical race studies, immigration and migration studies, transnationalism, Asian American studies, and Asian studies.” (Laura Ha Reizman Journal of Asian Studies)

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