Between Asia and empire: infrastructures of encounter in the archive of war
Nadine ATTEWELL and Wesley ATTEWELL
ABSTRACT In this essay, we stage a conversation about our experiences researching everyday histories of encounter between Asian and Asian diasporic subjects during the Pacific and Vietnam Wars. Through readings of materials from the archives of two empires, Britain and the United States, with bloody records of military intervention in east and south-east Asia, we show how wartime inter-Asian, Afro-Asian, and Asian diasporic geographies of relation overlapped with and animated one another, helping to (re)produce trans-local communities of affinity over space and time even as they also functioned as infrastructures for empire. Throughout, we reflect on the infrastructures – material, institutional, epistemological, affective – that make inter-referencing possible, both for our subjects and, importantly, for ourselves. If our archives resonate, what does this tell us about the trans-imperial durability of the intimate infrastructures we show taking shape in 1940s China and 1960s Vietnam respectively?
KEYWORDS: Intimacy; diaspora; infrastructure; war; empire; archive; Vietnam; Hong Kong; Britain; United States
Nadine Attewell is Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University. Her first book, Better Britons: Reproduction, National Identity, and the Afterlife of Empire, was published in 2014; she is currently at work on a second book entitled Archives of Intimacy: Racial Mixing and Asian Lives in the Colonial Port City.
Wesley Attewell is a Visiting Scholar at Simon Fraser University’s Institute for Transpacific Cultural Research. He recently completed a Faculty of Arts and Science Postdoctoral Fellowship in the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography and Planning. His first book, Developing Violence: Disassembling the USAID Complex in Afghanistan is under contract with the University of Minnesota Press; he is currently at work on a second book entitled The Lifelines of Empire: Logistics, Infrastructure, and the Decolonizing Pacific.