Cultural Trauma, Collective Memory and the Vietnam War
Summary, in English
Part of a wider project on how the Vietnam War (1945-1975) is remembered by three key collectives, Vietnamese communists, Vietnamese Americans and the United States, this article focuses primarily on the latter. Using the theory of cultural trauma as its framework, this is a study in trauma and collective memory, its impact and the social processes through which such memory is constructed and maintained. The central point is that collective memory is an active agent in explaining why individuals and collectivities act as they do. It is argued that collective memory is represented and reproduced in narrative form through various means, such as oral telling, literature, music, drama, film, monuments, museum installations and commemorative events. Through such media and related ritual practices, the stories and myths that congeal as collective memory serve as a foundation upon which collective identity rests. The defeat in Vietnam continues to haunt American collective memory and has yet to be reduced to history.