Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Politics of Memory
In dialogue with the critical scholarship on war and remembrance, my research deals with the construction, contestation and negotiation of collective memory in contemporary Vietnam with a focus on commemorations devoted to dead soldiers. Utilizing the methodologies of cultural studies and ethnography, this research seeks to comprehend the politics of memory which characterize collective memory as a social phenomenon whose meanings, interpretations and forms are variedly constructed from a certain social group to the next. Empirically, in this research, constitutive elements of Vietnamese postwar memoryscapes including the hero-centered discourse sanctioned by the Communist Party and the Socialist state, the family remembrance rooted in religious and kinship mandates and the newly emerged online ecology of memory are examined in their own nature as well as in their complicated intertwinements and constant interactions with each other. Case studies and specific methods of individual interview, participant observation and cultural analysis enable the author to approach and identify a wide range of forms and intersections between official and vernacular practices, between oral and living history and institutionalized and cultural presentations of memory. While considering these issues specifically in the Vietnamese context, my dissertation contributes to the increasing theoretical debates in the field of memory studies by exploring the relation of power and the symbolic struggle within and between different social agents involved. As it emphasizes the dynamic and power of memory, this research furthermore situates the phenomenon of collective memory in its dialogues with a broader cultural political environment of postwar society, which is characterized as a hybrid condition embracing processes of nationalism, modernization and post-socialist transformation. Significantly, during these dialogues, as demonstrated in this research, memory works embrace presentism and future-oriented functions which require any social group who is involved to negotiate and renegotiate its position, and to structure and restructure its power. Last but not least it must construct and reconstruct its own versions of the past. Author Keywords: collective memory, Dead soldiers, postwar society, Socialist Vietnam, the politics of memory, war remembrance
Alien Imaginaries
This dissertation offers a cultural analysis of UFOs and extraterrestrials in the United States. In it I look at what I call real aliens — extraterrestrials believed to be real and interacting with humans on Earth. Beliefs in real aliens are often denigrated and dismissed in official discourse, yet they continue to not only persist, but thrive, in American society. Hence, this dissertation asks: Why do so many people believe that extraterrestrials are visiting our planet? Part One begins by tracing the invasion of real aliens in the United States using Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast “The War of the Worlds” as a starting point. Here, I look at how and why the broadcast registered with listeners’ anxieties and created a fantastic and uncanny effect that made it possible for some to conceive of aliens invading the United States. In Part Two, I trace the rise of ufology, which involves the study of extraterrestrials currently interacting with humans on Earth, and I consider how the social and political climate of the Cold War, as well as the cultural environment of postmodernity, provided the necessary conditions for stories about aliens to be made believable. Part Three explores the case study of the Roswell Incident, a conspiracy theory about the origins of an alleged flying saucer crash and government cover-up. I look at the reasons for why many individuals have come to believe in this conspiracy theory and I reflect on the tensions between “official” and “unofficial” discourses surrounding this case. I also consider how and why Roswell has become such an important site for ufology, and I examine the performances given by ufologists at the annual Roswell International UFO Festival to appreciate how ufologists offers seductive explanations of why things are the way they are; for many, their stories offer a better version of events than the purely rational and positivist explanations offered by official sources, especially since they tap into the disillusionment and mistrust that many Americans feel about contemporary politics. Author Keywords: aliens/extraterrestrials, America, conspiracy, official and unofficial, storytelling, ufology

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2011 - 2021
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