15 Jul Stones with Vietnamese pronouns
I brought stones to be placed on the mourning white cloth, and wrote Việt pronouns/familial terms on the stones (like con, em, chị, anh, cô, chú, bác, etc.) as a way to reflect on how Viet culture understands the terms “you” and “I” to be much more complex than in the English language. Using these terms, there are no individual names on the stones, only general/anonymous pronouns – but at the same time these pronouns/familial terms are very intimate and endearing. I included some more recently coined gender non-binary pronouns such as chanh (chị + anh) that the queer Việt community uses. I asked visitors passing by to place a stone on the white cloth in memory of someone/something, as a kind of collective makeshift stone memorial (such as the Jewish tradition of placing stones on a grave). The familial terms on the stones were meant to insist upon the humanity (or as Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses, the full complexity and capacity for inhumanity within humanity) of Vietnamese people, something not regularly afforded to Vietnamese people in the ways that America has remembered (and forgotten) the war.