In the decades after World War II, tens of thousands of soldiers and civilian contractors across Asia and the Pacific found work through the U.S. military. Recently liberated from colonial rule, these workers were drawn to the opportunities the military offered and became active participants of the U.S. empire, most centrally during the U.S. war in Vietnam. In this talk, Simeon Man tells the histories of Asians and Asian Americans who fought in Vietnam, revealing how U.S. empire was sustained through overalapping projects of colonialism and race making. Through their military deployments, Man argues, these soldiers took part in the making of a new Pacific world – a decolonizing Pacific – in which the imperatives of U.S. empire collided with insurgent calls for decolonization, producing often surprising political alliances, imperial tactics of suppression, and new visions of radical democracy.
Simeon Man is assistant professor of History at University of California, San Diego, where he teaches courses in Asian American history and transnational U.S. history, with a focus on race and U.S. empire. He is the author of Soldiering through Empire: Race and the Making of the Decolonizing Pacific (University of California Press, 2018). His work has been published in edited volumes and journals including American Quarterly and Radical History Review.