Reeducation Camps & States of Suspension

Patricia Nguyễn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


After the Vietnam/American War, an estimated 1–2.5 million people were imprisoned in reeducation camps or trại học tập cải tạo with no formal charges or trials and 165,000 people were estimated to have died in the camps either from malnourishment, disease, or execution. In this article, I analyze my father Tam Van Nguyen’s oral history of reeducation camps with excerpts from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s memorandum to Amnesty International. I do so in order to theorize states of suspension as an embodied analytic that further draws on Frantz Fanon’s discussion of the importance of “knowing the strength of their own muscles” in national struggle to further push the boundaries of what freedom can feel like in the body. I locate states of suspension at the crux between three states of being: deprivation and indulgence, citizenship and criminality, and life and death, as they are enacted through the techniques of torture and punishment, performances of sovereign power, and modes of bodily capture. This research seeks to nuance Cold War dichotomies of promises of freedom by U.S. liberal war and Marxist-Leninist communist revolution to challenge our relationship to nation-state building as the ultimate achievement of national independence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-367
Number of pages17
JournalAmerasia Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Carceral studies
  • Vietnam/American War
  • abolition
  • critical refugee studies
  • oral history
  • reeducation camps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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