Reflections on Nhi T. Lieu's The American Dream in Vietnamese

By Jonathan Viet Luu

Nhi T. Lieu, in her recent book The American Dream in Vietnamese, interrogates the notion of Vietnamese diasporic subjectivity as she is “cautious about embracing this potentially liberating space and the technologies that promise freedom, information, and democracy” explaining that “transnational flows of capital and new forms of consumption present a paradox for the diasporic community” (xxv). Following this point of departure, Lieu not only problematizes Vietnamese diasporic subjectivity by studying how such subjectivity is inculcated in Western bourgeois ideology but also demonstrates its multiplicity in modernity. Simply, her critique illustrates the Vietnamese subject as having contours and sides despite accounts that treats such a body as flat. Her book, unfortunately, despite challenging existing literature on Vietnamese “refugees” is limited in the form of critique within pre-existing theoretical frameworks that have been propagated by Eurocentric thinkers; that is, the critique is provocative in raising skepticism of bourgeois Vietnamese diasporic subjectivity yet relies on Eurocentric academic discourses and derivatives such as Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism, etc. The text, however, remains important nonetheless as it still offers a pathway – if critically engaged by readers – that challenge such European theories and modes of thinking offered in academia.

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