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HomeFashionExpanding the Value of Authorship in Caleb Stein and Andrea Orejarena's New...

Expanding the Value of Authorship in Caleb Stein and Andrea Orejarena's New Book

As outsiders, Caleb and Andrea set their sights on those who are somehow “untethered,” but seek ways to connect to their traumatic experiences from the perspective of the residents. Through an inherently humane approach based on intergenerational and cross-cultural exchange, the couple explores the continuing legacy of the Vietnam-American War, and the aftermath of a rather distant but not insignificant war. In fact, the aftermath of this conflict affects not only the lives of those affected by the experience, but the daily lives of each of us in the same way we perceive history and its evolution.

Caleb and Andrea demonstrated a sensitivity and respect when speaking about the project, they were able to engage in visual dialogue and dialogue, resulting in kaleidoscopic perspectives and interpretations of reality. They attempted to connection between seemingly distant worlds, echoing the empiricist notion of seeing a work of art as something capable of enhancing the diversity of its composition, resulting in, in the words of Nicolas Bourriaud, “a dynamo rather than a mere container”.

We spoke to them to learn more.

How did you first come to Vietnam?

Andrea: We went to Vietnam to study abroad with a group of students from many different universities. The show was going to take us to Làng Hữu Nghị, a home for Vietnam veterans and their descendants affected by Agent Orange; out of respect for the victims, none of us wanted to leave. We thought “it’s not tourism; it’s not good to go there”—that very American liberal arts thinking. But then the program said to all the students, “Go ahead or you’ll fail.” So we went and tried to be respectful. When we arrived, the veterans were happy to see us. At one point in the conversation, we told them we were hesitant to visit because we wanted to respect them. We asked them “How do you feel about people like us coming?” They responded, “Why should you worry about visiting? We won the war.” From there we learned that communication is important. This is why the Édouard Glissant quote at the beginning of the book “We can change by exchange” is so important to us; it opens our eyes. Upon our return, Caleb and I had a long conversation about this first encounter with a Vietnam veteran, and we wondered if it would be right to go back again. It was important to us that they were all educated in the American system because we learned for the first time things about the war that we didn’t know; our experiences and exchanges during our first visit to Làng Hữu Nghị did not belong The dominant Western-centric narrative. We were finishing our bachelor’s degrees by then, so we knew we wouldn’t learn much about the Vietnam-American War unless we did independent research. It’s insane that a lot of Western students know nothing about chemical weapons and what the US does abroad; most US-generated histories omit it entirely. We only have Hollywood’s point of view. In the history textbook of the American system, there is only one paragraph describing the Vietnam-American War. There are three chapters on the American Revolution, but only one paragraph on the Vietnam-American War. Thus, for the first time, Vietnam survivors tell us what chemical weapons do, what it looks like, and how the United States and its militaries abroad perceive it.



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