Experiments in Skin: “Resting” History, Intimate Labor, and the Chemical Afterlife of Vietnam
Start Date : February 3, 5:00 pm End Date : February 2, 6:30 pm
Environmental historians have characterized the Vietnam War as a “chemical war,” fought with chemically-saturated explosives and incendiaries, tear gas and firebombs, herbicides and insecticides. Despite decades of scientific research, legal challenges, and political organizing, the consequences of this broad chemical exposure remain shrouded in a politics of uncertainty. This talk offers an account of how Vietnam’s chemical war was recorded on the body’s surface, and how Vietnamese women living with fears of on-going contamination come to labor with war’s toxic “afterlife.” Drawn from research at a spa in Saigon, Thuy Linh Tu considers how women speculate about historical conditions that “rest” () in their bodies, and seek remediation for ailments that appear on their skin, in the absence of medical certainty about what ails them, and without expectations for a “clean” environmental future.