Refugee Worldmaking: Canada and the Afterlives of the Vietnam War : Author Spotlight – erin Khuê Ninh

erin Khuê Ninh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature (NYU Press; recognized for Best Literary Criticism by the Association for Asian American Studies in 2013), and more recently, Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities (Temple University Press, 2021). With Shireen Roshanravan, she edited the special issue of the Journal of Asian American Studies on sexual violence, entitled #WeToo: A Reader (2021).



Refugees and Other Impossibilities: Imagining Apocalypse



In its final form, this will be a piece of autotheory, reflecting on refugee affect at two different points in time: one in the immediate aftermath of the Trump election, the other four years later, but still in the timeline rerouted/revealed by that event. The essay asks what refugee as ontology means in a historical present in which environmental catastrophe comes for us all, but political catastrophe presents an erratic menace.

In its first round, the essay asks: Which genre is this unfolding? When do affective systems primed by the Vietnam War resilient vs. maladaptive? Will we know when it is time, again, to go?

In its second, sifting the accretions of fifteen hundred days of headlines, the questions have not abated but morphed and grown: What is Canada to this new American vision of the self? Four years in, are those of us still here inured or recommitted? As settler refugees, what is our duty to this land? As BIPOC allies, what is our duty to those communities whose apocalypse has been here for generations, and who have stayed?


Canadian Literature issue 246, Refugee Worldmaking: Canada and the Afterlives of the Vietnam War, is available to order through our online store at