UC Irvine’s School of Humanities has launched a project to assemble and preserve oral histories of Vietnamese Americans in Southern California. The collection will be housed at the UCI Libraries’ renowned Southeast Asian Archive and will be made available to researchers and the public upon its completion in three years.

Headed by postdoctoral fellow Thuy Vo Dang, the project will capture the diverse life narratives of the region’s first-generation refugees and immigrants. As part of the effort, Vo Dang will teach a course this winter on the Vietnamese American experience and will train students on how to conduct oral history interviews.

Southern California’s Vietnamese community is the largest outside Vietnam. Many who fled their homeland at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 chose to rebuild their lives in the region. The project – funded by a generous, anonymous donation – will document the significant cultural, economic, political and social contributions they have made in California and elsewhere in the U.S.

“Over the years, numerous Vietnamese American students have earned their degrees in UCI’s undergraduate and graduate programs and have flourished in their professions and as civic leaders,” said Linda Vo, associate professor of Asian American studies. “We’re pleased to be able to play a role in collecting the community’s history and preserving it for future generations.”

Vo Dang received a doctorate in ethnic studies from UC San Diego in 2008 and was a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA in 2009-10 and a visiting scholar in 2010-11. She gathered oral histories from first-generation Vietnamese Americans in San Diego for her dissertation on cultural politics and memory. Vo Dang has also collaborated on a Pacific Rim Foundation-funded project that involved interviewing more than 70 Vietnamese Americans in Southern California.

Her academic research has been published in Amerasia Journal, the anthology “Le Viet Nam au feminin” and the Journal of Vietnamese Studies. She serves on the board of directors for the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association, co-directing this year’s Moon Festival Children’s Art Contest in Westminster, Calif.

The advisory committee for the UCI oral history project includes Vicki L. Ruiz, dean of the School of Humanities; Linda Vo; James Lee, chair of the Department of Asian American Studies; Michelle Light, the UCI Libraries’ acting head of special collections; Christina J. Woo, research librarian for the Southeast Asian Archive; Caroline McGuire, Asian American studies department manager; and attorney Daniel Do-Khanh, president of the UCI chapter of Vietnamese American Community Ambassadors.

For more information about the project, visit http://sites.uci.edu/vaohp/

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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