What is Refugee Resilience?
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How to Cite

Kang, S. (2023). What is Refugee Resilience? Reframing Survival under Environmental Sacrifice. American Studies, 61(3). https://journals.ku.edu/amsj/article/view/16542


This article interrogates the violence of incorporating the resilience of structurally marginalized communities into disaster policy in southeast Louisiana. Focusing on the experiences of Vietnamese American commercial fishing families, I ask how a particular racializing formation--what I call "refugee resilience"--is deployed by policymakers in the post-Katrina disaster landscape to make Vietnamese American coast-dependent residents both expendable and impervious to environmental racism and expendability. To think through the Global South-US South transits that make this possible, I bring Asian American studies critiques of structural violence and immigration policy into conversation with Black feminist analyses of disaster and BIPOC environmental justice frameworks of sacrifice and racialized abandonment. While my analysis is limited in scope to the experiences of Vietnamese Americans, I believe that to forward a robust analysis of Vietnamese American resilience and expendability, it is imperative to understand how that racializing formation is acutely co-constituted by and with the expendability of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities in the present, historically, and in decision-makers’ visions for the future. I believe that this work is particularly imperative at such a critical juncture in global and local foci on climate change, environmental policy, and disaster response. While incredibly robust in some areas, much of this scholarship excludes Asian Americans in general and Vietnamese Americans in particular, among other racialized and colonized communities.

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