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After the MassacreCommemoration and Consolation in Ha My and My Lai$
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Heonik Kwon

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780520247963

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520247963.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

The Bipolarity of Death

The Bipolarity of Death

(p.11) CHAPTER 1 The Bipolarity of Death
After the Massacre

Heonik Kwon

University of California Press

The Vietnamese perception of the world incorporates the awareness that the life of the dead is intertwined with that of the living, and that the Vietnamese idealize a harmonious relationship between the two forms of life. The morality of death, in modern history, cannot be considered independently from the history of mass death. In Ha My and My Lai, mass death was a central episode in family and village history. The war in Vietnam resulted in high numbers of displaced, troubled, and ritually “uncontrolled deaths.” This chapter examines the implications of the conceptual polarity for the memory of mass death. To illustrate this, it discusses relevant sociological theories about death symbolism. Furthermore, it highlights the two-sided commemorative ritual practice, and relates it to the idea of “symbolic ambidexterity” proposed by Robert Hertz. Finally, it considers its practical implications and theoretical significance against the background of the moral symbolic hierarchy of death.

Keywords:   mass death, Ha My, My Lai, uncontrolled deaths, ambidexterity, commemorative ritual, death symbolism

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