Science and Spirit: Searching for the remains of Vietnam's MIAs four decades later


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




My dissertation examines how science and spirits intersect, or compete with each other, in the Vietnamese national effort to identify the remains of Vietnamese soldiers who went missing-in-action during the Vietnam-American war using DNA technologies. The project advances the voices, memories, and stories of Vietnamese community members, who are marginalized in US public discourses, about the war and its legacies. Through creative nonfiction writing and a short ethnographic documentary with Vietnamese genetic scientists and family members of the war dead, this project juxtaposes the scientific techniques of identifying the remains and the ritual practices of commemorating the dead. In doing so, the project reconciles the tensions between the real (or the material) and the symbolic (or the spiritual) as well as between the different approaches in understanding how the biology and the spirit of the (war) dead reshape human relationships and national belonging.