Child soldiers, Vietnamese youth and the politics of storytelling
By Dr Kim Huynh, Australian National University
Chaired by Associate Professor Emilian Kavalski
Abstract: This seminar incorporates a discussion of two interrelated research projects. The first on child soldiers considers how to analyse and judge a) the global problem of child soldiers and b) particular societies that encourage and celebrate child soldiers. With respect to a), I contrast caretaker (liberal humanitarian) and free-ranger (critical childhood studies) perspectives and propose an indirect approach to solving the global child soldier problem that concentrates not so much on demobilising individuals and demilitarising societies, but rather on improving the socioeconomic and security conditions that are conducive to the use of child soldiers. With respect to b) I examine the stories of Vietnamese child soldiers – from ancient myths to modern heroes to my father’s experiences as a twelve-year-old revolutionary – in order to better understand a society that was and arguably remains pro child soldier.
The second project entitled Vietnam as if… Tales of Youth, Love and Destiny reflects recent efforts to present my scholarship as political action and fiction. This collection of novellas traces the journeys of five young people who have moved from the country to the city. Each story engages with a major social issue (gender, minorities, indifference, ideology and faith). The collection embodies my research and experiences from 2011 to 2012 when I lived in Vietnam and sold sticky rice, became a tennis player and ball boy, consulted for big business, marched in the streets against foreign aggression, translated and edited literature for the government and returned to the classroom
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