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Mimi Nguyen: Of Gifts, Debts, and Threats

Mimi Nguyen, Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

May 22, 2019 at 12:00 pm

EMU Redwood Room

Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do movingly tells personal and political histories of the war in Viet Nam and its aftermath for her family of refugees. Since this Cold War exodus, however, the United States has increasingly enacted restrictions for granting asylum to populations fleeing wars in those places to which the United States pledged freedom (often through sanction, bomb, and drone). Furthermore, the current administration is pursuing the aggressive deportation of permanent residents –many of them one-time refugees— with an eye toward the de-naturalization of others. The asylum seekers who fill private prisons and emptied warehouses, the refugees who trek for hundreds of miles and drown at sea, are somehow both ubiquitous and lost in shadow. This talk considers the so-called gift of freedom that the United States in particular once claimed to grant to others, and the burden of debt that follows, to understand the terrible threat that the gift and the debt impose on the refugee.