Exiles at Home: A Refugee Structure of Feeling

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Date(s) - 1 Jun 2014
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Room N302, Menzies Building, Monash University

Associate Professor Micol Seigel, Indiana University, United States

When refugees from Southeast Asia began to arrive in the U.S. in high numbers in the late 1970s, a surprising cohort of assistance workers emerged to help: U.S. police who had worked in the region training local law enforcement agents before and during the Vietnam War. The program that sent those American cops to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and elsewhere was terminated by Congress just prior to the last Saigon airlift, and the police who lost their jobs then felt like exiles, too. This talk traces some of the relationships between demobilized U.S. police trainers and their former counterparts, narrating financial support, sponsorship, political activism, friendship and marriage—and
even occasionally the hiring of a refugee into a U.S. law enforcement agency. These intimacies reveal a transnational anticommunist imagined community acting to weave a filament of former colonial subjects into the fabric of the imperial state. The paper explores the productive internal contradictions of this nationalist-transnational, imperial-postcolonial, racist-interracial state formation.

Micol Seigel is associate professor of American Studies and History at Indiana University,
Bloomington, where she teaches and studies policing, prisons, and race in the Americas. Her book Uneven Encounters: Making Race and Nation in Brazil and the United States (Duke, 2009) received a finalist mention for the Lora Romero first book prize of the American Studies Association; her research has been supported by FLAS, Fulbright, the ACLS, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Driskell Center of the University of Maryland, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, where she is a visiting scholar for 2014. She is currently
drafting a manuscript on the transnational circulation of policing policy and practice during the Cold War tentatively entitled Beyond the Beat: Cold War Cops and the Nature of State Power.

Download the flyer for this seminar (PDF)