All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.
Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War
[Rithy] Panh’s film asks: what is the future of a country that has denied its past?
Dierdre Boyle, “Shattering Silence: Traumatic Memory and Reenactment”
Course Overview: Welcome to HSTAS/JSIS 264! In this course, we will engage with film, novels, and the performing arts to discuss how ideas of power, race, violence, and global modernity circulate in memories and discourses about Southeast Asia and US relations in/with Southeast Asia. Over the nine-week period, we will look closely at foundation myths, colonial and postcolonial encounters, historiography and narrative, and nationalist and ethnic identity formations across mainland and island Southeast Asia. A significant part of this course will be watching films and reading literature from and about Southeast Asia.
This class is built around three critically acclaimed films: Apocalypse Now: Final Cut (2001/2019, orig. 1979), The Missing Picture (2013), and Opera Jawa (2006). Apocalypse Now (directed by Francis Ford Coppola) was filmed in the Philippines between 1976-77 and is described by some as a “hallucinogenic nightmare” of war and violence set in Vietnam and Cambodia. The Missing Picture is a memoire produced by Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, and addresses memory, trauma, and survival during the Khmer Rouge period and its aftermath. Opera Jawa, directed by Indonesian filmmaker Garin Nugroho, maps contemporary struggles against state and communal violence onto the mythology of a prominent Hindu epic, the Ramayana. We will use these three films as starting points to explore ideas and constructions of violence, race, memory, survival, and reconciliation in U.S. relations with Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Together, we will trace the ways in which these films evoke mythologies, regulate ethnic, racial, and religious tensions, and reflect anxieties about modernity.
Alongside these three films, we will read two novels and one travelogue. For our segment on Vietnam, we read war veteran Duong Thu Huong’s Novel Without a Name, which allows us to travel with a group of “North” Vietnamese soldiers as they bring the war into the southern part of Vietnam (to investigate ideologies and histories that serve as metaphors for the beleaguered nation). For Cambodia, we will read a section of Amitav Ghosh’s Dancing in Cambodia, At Large in Burma which introduces the performing arts – and dance, specifically – as embodied sites of resistance as Cambodia raced towards an UN-facilitated election in the 1990s aftermath of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. For Indonesia, we will read the first novel of Indonesia’s famous author Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s (d. 2006) Buru Quartet series. This Earth of Mankind addresses issues of race, ethnicity, and colonial legal systems in the early 20th century Dutch East Indies, the colony that would go on to fight from 1945, when independence was declared, to 1949 to become the independent nation of Indonesia.
PLEASE NOTE: The films and readings that we discuss in this course portray violence and aggression (both explicit and implicit), including physical violence, sexual violence, racial slurs, and drug or alcohol abuse. I recognize and understand that watching and reading about such violence is difficult and/or may bring up personal traumas. I recommend that you read this syllabus in its entirety in Week 1 and contact me ASAP to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about the topics or materials addressed in this class. Should any concerns arise over the course of the quarter as we work through this material, please contact me directly to discuss an appropriate solution.
Class Format: This course is a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning.
Tuesdays (Asynchronous): each week on Tuesdays, I will upload pre-recorded lectures on Canvas for you to watch on your own time. For weeks where there is an assigned film, this Tuesday lecture will be reserved for you to watch the film at your convenience.
Thursdays (Synchronous): each week on Thursdays, we will meet virtually on Zoom at our assigned class time: 2:30-4:30 PST. This virtual meeting will be recorded and uploaded to Canvas. Attendance during Thursday sessions is encouraged, but not mandatory. Please email me if you are unable to join Thursday meetings.
Please download and read the course syllabus in detail for the schedule and assignment deadlines.