This paper juxtaposes Toni Morrison’s novel Home with Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry volume Dien Cai Dau in order to explore Afro-Asian intimacies produced by Black soldiers’ participation in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Attending to experiences of racism within the newly integrated US military, I highlight moments of slippage when Black soldiers’ intimate encounters with South Korean girls and South Vietnamese women undermined loyalty to the US’s Cold War imperial project and instead facilitated complicated attachments to the Asian girls and women. Rather than romanticize such intimate encounters as quotidian expressions of cross-racial, Third World solidarity, I grapple with their manifestation as forbidden erotics and gendered violence, engaging an intersectional analysis of race, sex, and gender. Collectively, I understand these marginalized figures—Black GIs, South Korean girls, and South Vietnamese women—as “southern subjects,” in order to highlight linkages between shared experiences of what I call “southern violence”: antiblack policing of Black men and rape of Black women, and imperial war-making and gendered violence against South Korean and South Vietnamese girls and women. In other words, uncanny circuits and connections between the US South, South Korea, and South Vietnam facilitate an analysis of “southern cartographies”: how the legacies of the US Civil War—southern white supremacy and the afterlives of slavery—were extended into the civil wars for postcolonial independence that were fought in South Korea and South Vietnam during the Cold War, facilitating intimate encounters between multiply situated southern subjects affected by different iterations of southern violence.
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