Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Staging Vietnamese America: Music and the performance of Vietnamese American identities
by Nguyen, Jason R., M.A., Indiana University, 2012, 155; 1546986
Abstract (Summary)

This study examines how Vietnamese Americans perform identities that acknowledge their statuses as diasporic Vietnamese to construct and maintain specifically Vietnamese American communities. I argue that music, especially public forms of musical expression within mass media and locally staged cultural performances, is a crucial way for Vietnamese Americans across the diaspora to transmit markers of cultural knowledge and identity that give them information about themselves and the "imagined community" constructed through their linked discourses.

The argument is organized around two main ideas that focus on broad cultural patterns and locally situated expressions, respectively. First, music produced by the niche Vietnamese American media industry is distributed across the diaspora and models discourses of Vietnamese identity as different companies provide different visions of what it means to be Vietnamese and perform Vietnamese-ness on stage. I analyze the music variety shows by three different companies (Thuy Nga Productions, Asia Entertainment, and Van Son Productions) to argue that Vietnamese American popular media should not be seen as representing a single monolithic version of Vietnamese-ness; rather, each articulation of Vietnamese identity is slightly different and speaks to a different formulation of the Vietnamese public, producing a discursive field for diverse Vietnamese American identity politics.

Secondly, I show how identity is always performed in particular places, illustrating that Vietnamese Americans performing music in different places can have vastly different understandings of that music and its relationship to their identities. Using a Peircian semiotic framework, I articulate a theory of place-making in which places become vehicles for the clustering of signs and meaning as people experience and interpret those places and make meaning there. As people's experiences imbue places with meaning, people coming from similar cultural backgrounds may gain different attachments to those places and one another and thus different understandings of their identities as Vietnamese. I use two contrasting examples of Vietnamese American communities in Indianapolis and San Jose to show how people in each place construct entirely different discourses of identity surrounding musical performance based upon their positionality within the diaspora.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Tuohy, Sue, Reed, Daniel B.
Commitee: Cohen, Judah M., Reed, Daniel B., Tuohy, Sue
School: Indiana University
Department: Folklore and Ethnomusicology
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: MAI 52/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Asian American Studies, Music, Ethnic studies
Keywords: Cultural performance, Diaspora, Identity, Place, Semiotics, Vietnamese Americans
Publication Number: 1546986
ISBN: 978-1-303-47667-9
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