Presenter:LEHENY, David (Professor, Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University)
Presentation Theme:Cheer Up, Vietnam: Beto-chan, Doku-chan, and the Emotional Politics of Narrative
In 1986, the conjoined twins Nguyen Viet and Nguyen Duc (nicknamed Beto-chan and Doku-chan in the Japanese media) were flown to Tokyo to receive medical treatment. Viet and Duc were almost certainly victims of Agent Orange, the chemical weapon used by the United States military during the Vietnam War to destroy forest cover used by communist guerrillas and their supporters to hide from American air and ground attacks. After their return to Vietnam later that year, they remained in the Japanese media, and the Japanese Red Cross provided support for the surgical procedure to separate them in 1988. Nguyen Duc survived and largely recovered from the surgery, traveling to Japan numerous times, including most recently in 2017 as a visiting lecturer at Hiroshima International University, but his brother Viet died in 2007, having never regained full consciousness from the 1988 surgery.
This lecture is drawn from Leheny’s forthcoming book on emotions and politics (Cornell University Press, 2018), and it focuses on the way in which a postwar narrative that situated Japan between the United States and Asia helped to shape the emotional representation of the Viet-Duc story. It pays attention to the political interests and goals of the activists and writers who brought Viet and Duc to public attention in Japan, while then addressing their symbolic role in a widening set of debates and discussions.