This article explores the bene/violent culture of U.S. empire manifested in the “benign” project of resettling and Americanizing Vietnamese refugees. It conceptualizes bene/violence as the inseparable entanglement of benevolence and violence that produces a disciplinary love to recruit citizen-subjects among refugees through affected abjection. It argues that bene/violence is a lens to explore how American generosity thrives on the naturalization of violence against Southeast Asian refugees. Examining local news and official reports of Vietnamese refugee resettlement in Minnesota, Minnesota Indochinese Task Force’s newsletter Minnesota New Life, and oral histories collected in Twin Cities during summer 2021, this research demonstrates how the “tradition” of American generosity, the popularized image of “nation of immigrant,” and the cultural imagination of “Minnesota Nice” thrive on the violence of dispersal policy, forced assimilation into a white capitalist hegemony, and the reconstruction of racial discrimination as a deviation from the norm of American kindness. It highlights how the image of American kindness reflects the logics of white benevolence that characterizes U.S. imperial mechanisms. Establishing bene/violence as a culture of U.S. empire, this study contributes to an understanding of empire beyond territorial expansions, foreign policies, and military interventions by centering the cultural front as a locale to investigate the visibility and invisibility of colonial governance that is baked in the lives of Vietnamese refugees. Additionally, focusing on the experience of Midwestern Vietnamese refugees, this study expands current scholarship that have extensively focused on Vietnamese ethnic enclaves in the East and West Coasts.
All items © Mid-America American Studies Association
Authors: If you prefer to remove your text(s) from this database please contact the editor.