“Nước Việt Nam: a home, a cradle, a point of departure” (Gandhi, 1).

The Vietnamese word nước embraces the duality of land and water with an idea of “home.” Through a nuanced examination of the meaning of homeland and politics of belonging, Evyn Lê Espiritu Gandhi proposes nước to understand complex positionalities of refugee settlers on lands sutured through the traumas of US empire, militarization, and settler colonialism. Division in area studies has foreclosed conversations on how histories of settler colonialism and empire bring to light unexpected connections between Indigenous people and settlers across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. By bringing together Vietnamese refugee settlers in Israel Palestine and Guam, Gandhi asks the difficult question of how we can imagine decolonial futurities when the creation of “home” for refugee settlers was predicated on the settler colonial project of dispossessing Indigenous people. Drawing inspiration from nước that embraces contradictions through relationality, Gandhi charts both the archipelago of US empire and resistance to imagine decolonization based on fraught acknowledgement of histories and relationalities between people, land, and water.

Gandhi’s new monograph is a vital read for both scholars and public interested in critical refugee studies, Indigenous studies, settler colonialism, US empire, and archipelagic history. 

Evyn Lê Espiritu Gandhi is an assistant professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (Tovaangar). Her interdisciplinary research engages critical refugee studies, settler colonial studies, and transpacific studies. She also hosts a podcast, Distorted Footprints, through her Critical Refugee Studies class.

Da In Ann Choi is a PhD student at UCLA in the Gender Studies department. Her research interests include care labor and migration, reproductive justice, social movement, citizenship theory, and critical empire studies. She can be reached at dainachoi@g.ucla.edu.

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