Ways of Seeing, Shaping, and Documenting Subjects under Postcolonial Conflicts

AHA Session 139
Conference on Latin American History 22
Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Maryland Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
P. Michael Rattanasengchanh, Ohio University
Mustafah Dhada, California State University, Bakersfield

Session Abstract

This panel addresses two of the major three themes of the conference on race, ethnicity and nationalism by focusing on global ideologies and resistance to change during and soon after decolonization from European rule, across two continents, Latin America and Asia, and from a global perspective. Three contending forces, all oppressive in nature, worked against the rise of national and multi-ethnic self-determination outside Europe. One, was internal, which sought to resist governance from above, particularly one seen as oppressive, and inimical to the collective will. Such resistance ranged from armed opposition to the use of creative, visual and performance art. The other, external, largely predatory in nature, and steeped in cold war ideology, used a variety of resources, creative artifacts, and ways of seeing to influence and shape subjects in civil societies within emergent states. The third force was an asymmetric alliance between external forces and the state apparatus quelling resistance from below, resulting in some cases in internally-displaced persons; and in others, wholesale slaughter.

The panel offers three papers to explore this problematic trifecta, of seeing, shaping and documenting post-colonial subjects under conflict. The first paper on Argentina during the early and middle Cold War period, examines the role of underground theatre as a force of public will against state oppression. In the process the paper pays particular attention to the use of language, scenery, performance artifacts, subliminal messaging in combatting state propaganda across ethnic fault lines. 

The second paper explores how artisans and internally displaced persons and refugees from North Vietnam near Saigon were depicted and used as a fertile treasure trove for a set of visual images with which to frame a needs-based approach to foreign aid. This photographic approach to the Cold War narrative proved all the more significant as it facilitated US re-entry as peace-bearers into a previously contested terrain during the Cold War. 

The third paper is museological in nature and shed light on how slaughter was documented and depicted in Indonesia and Vietnam at the height of the Cold War.

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