Conference commemorates 30th anniversary of Vietnam War’s end

The “girl in the picture” who became a world-wide symbol of the Vietnam War, Kim Phuc, will be one of the guest speakers at this weekend’s conference of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Studies hosted by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR). Titled “Re-visioning Southeast Asia: Conflicts, Connections and Vulnerabilities”, the conference commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Vietnam War runs Friday to Sunday at various venues on the Keele campus.

Kim Phuc

Left: Kim Phuc receives her honorary doctor of laws degree from York in 2004

Phuc gained international fame in 1972 at age nine when she was photographed fleeing in terror and pain from napalm bombing in her hometown in South Vietnam, the clothes burned from her body. Now a 41-year-old mother of two living in Ajax, Phuc is the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Culture of Peace and founder of Kim Foundation International, an international charity to help child victims of war. Phuc received the Order of Ontario last month and an honorary doctor of laws degree from York in Oct. 2004 (see story in the Oct. 26, 2004 issue of YFile).

Phuc is one of several participants scheduled to take part in a public roundtable discussion Friday, 2:30-4pm, on “The Indochina War: Memories and Meanings after Thirty Years” commemorating the anniversary of the US withdrawal from Vietnam in April 1975 and the subsequent victory of anti-US forces in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. With more than 100 participants expected to attend, it will be the largest Canadian gathering of scholars and activists on Southeast Asia.

The discussion on the Indochina War will be chaired by Julie Dai-Trang Nguyen of the University of Toronto. Other speakers on the panel include Robert Winder, a Canadian Vietnam veteran; Toan Bui, who will speak about growing up in North Vietnam during the war; Toronto lawyer Lloyd Duong, author of Boat People: Imprints on History (Optimal World Publishers, 2000); Thanh Tie, a Canadian Cambodian who lived through the Khmer Rouge genocide period and escaped to Thailand; and Chau Du, a young Vietnamese-Canadian, whose parents were among the tens of thousands of Vietnamese boat people who eventually settled in Canada.

“It is a great honour for York to be hosting this important gathering of Canadian and international experts on Southeast Asia,” said Peter Vandergeest, director of YCAR, who will chair a panel discussion on food and agriculture of the region.

The conference’s 29 panel discussions will explore topics as diverse as the history of Southeast Asia, democratic movements, migration and trans-nationalism, popular culture, urban and rural development, environment and livelihoods, contemporary conflicts, regional political issues and the interface between social activism and scholarship.

Several York researchers will take part in the panel discussions scheduled for the three-day conference, including YCAR senior scholar David Wurfel, one of Canada’s leading authorities on Vietnam, who will give an overview of the 30-year platform of the US government and reflect on his experience as an anti-war participant in both Canada and the US.

York participants will be featured in the multi-part panel discussion “Popular Culture – Art and the Political in Southeast Asia”. Penny Van Esterik, a professor in York’s Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Arts, will screen a series of films about the war and its aftermath and take part in a discussion which includes faculty colleague John Van Esterik, who will speak on “Imaginary Tourist Worlds in Thailand: Local and Foreign Perspectives”. Franki Notosudirdjo, sessional professor in Fine Arts Cultural Studies in the Faculty of Arts, will discuss “Islam, Politics, and the Dynamic of Contemporary Culture in Indonesia” and Nur Intan Murtadza, doctoral candidate in Ethnomusicology, will be a discussant.

Philip Kelly, professor of geography in the Faculty of Arts, will chair both parts of a panel discussion, titled “Five Decades of Southeast Asian Research: Reflections on the Work of Terry McGee.” Judith Nagata, YCAR researcher and professor of anthropology in Yorks’ Faculty of Arts, will take part in the panel discussion titled “Democratic Governance and Social Movements” and chair another panel titled “The Interface between Activism and Scholarship: NGO Contributions to Southeast Asian Studies.” A panel on “Environmental Conservation and Livelihoods” includes YCAR member Robin Roth, professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, who will speak on “The Neoliberalization of Conservation: How Some are Hoping that the Markets will Solve the Parks-People Dilemma” and Melissa Marschke, YCAR post-doctoral fellow, who will speak on “Exploring the disconnect between rural livelihood realities and resource management practices: two Cambodian case studies”. York graduate student in geography Junjia Ye will take part in the panel discussion titled “Conceptualizing Class in Southeast Asia”, presenting a paper on “Multiple Identities in the Workplace: The Case of Singapore ‘s Financial Sector”. Serene Tan, a graduate student in the Geography Department will speak on “Performance Art and the Representation of Public Space in Singapore” in the panel on “Urban Isseus”.