Refuge and Reconciliation

October 1, 2021
Vietnamese Refugees Being Towed Behind a Larger ShipApril 03, 1975

In the wake of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, much attention has focused on the fate of Afghan citizens who risked their lives to aid U.S. forces. The hastily organized evacuation of Afghan refugees has frequently drawn unfavorable comparison to the evacuation and resettlement of Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975. As the guest in this week’s podcast demonstrates, however, the story of how the United States came to accept Vietnamese refugees is far more nuanced than many comparisons suggest. Professor Amanda Demmer is the author of After Saigon’s Fall: Refugees and U.S.-Vietnamese Relations, 1975-2000, published this year by Cambridge University Press. In the book, and in her talk, Demmer describes how the process of accepting refugees following the war in Vietnam both shaped and was shaped by significant movements in domestic and international politics, including a re-assertion of Congressional power in foreign relations, changing domestic and international norms regarding refugees, and an interlocking of humanitarian and human rights narratives. Ultimately, Demmer argues, understanding the story of refugees is central to understanding the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam.  This talk was sponsored by the Clements Center at the University of Texas, Austin, and was hosted by Mark Lawrence, an associate professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin, and director of the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum.

Image: manhhai via Flickr CC BY 2.0