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Though a generation has passed since the massacre of civilians at My Lai, the legacy of this tragedy continues to reverberate throughout Vietnam and the rest of the world. This engrossing study considers how Vietnamese villagers in My Lai and Ha My—a village where South Korean troops committed an equally appalling, though less well-known, massacre of unarmed civilians—assimilate the catastrophe of these mass deaths into their everyday ritual life.
Based on a detailed study of local history and moral practices, After the Massacre focuses on the particular context of domestic life in which the Vietnamese villagers interact with their ancestors on one hand and the ghosts of tragic death on the other. Heonik Kwon explains what intimate ritual actions can tell us about the history of mass violence and the global bipolar politics that caused it. He highlights the aesthetics of Vietnamese commemorative rituals and the morality of their practical actions to liberate the spirits from their grievous history of death. The author brings these important practices into a critical dialogue with dominant sociological theories of death and symbolic transformation.
Preface and Acknowledgments
Map of Vietnam
1. The Bipolarity of Death
2. Massacres in the Year of the Monkey, 1968
3. A Generation Afterward
4. Ancestors in the Street
5. Heroes and Ancestors
6. Grievous Death
7. The Stone of Fury
8. The Decomposition of the Cold War
Conclusion: Liberation from Grievance
Heonik Kwon is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. Drew Faust is Dean of the Radcliffe Institute and Lincoln Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.
“Offers a timely addition to the fields of comparative religion and war.”—Southeast Review Of Asian Stds
"The scholarship that went into this work is excellent in every respect. The writing and organization are very strong; the text is theoretically informed and persuasively argued. Moreover, the study is chock-full of information on a wide array of important but little-studied topics in Vietnamese studies. Despite their obvious importance, this is the first study to view them through Kwon's unique and illuminating lens."—Peter Zinoman, author of The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862-1940
Clifford Geertz Prize, Society for the Anthropology of ReligionAmerican Anthropological Association