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The American Dream in Vietnamese$
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Nhi T. Lieu

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816665693

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816665693.001.0001

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Pageantry and Nostalgia: Beauty Contests and the Gendered Homeland

Pageantry and Nostalgia: Beauty Contests and the Gendered Homeland

(p.59) Chapter 3 Pageantry and Nostalgia: Beauty Contests and the Gendered Homeland
The American Dream in Vietnamese

Nhi T. Lieu

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines the complex ways in which the Vietnamese diaspora in the United States construct cultural identities and imagine their lost nation through beauty pageants. In response to exclusionary practices that disqualify Asian women from representing the “nation” by virtue of their race, Vietnamese Americans have organized their own beauty pageants to provide alternative spaces that give “ethnic Vietnamese” women the opportunity to participate and to reign as beauty queens for their ethnic community. This chapter argues that young women play an essential role in the imagined community because they simultaneously represent tradition and modernity in beauty pageants, which not only stage gender politics of the community but also dramatize the various ways in which Vietnamese American citizenship is realized through the performances of young female Vietnamese bodies. It suggests how the bodies of Vietnamese women symbolically invoked nostalgia and become a medium through which cultural nationalism was forged.

Keywords:   beauty pageants, Vietnamese diaspora, cultural identities, Vietnamese Americans, ethnic Vietnamese, Vietnamese women, young women, gender politics, citizenship, cultural nationalism

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