History on the Run

Secrecy, Fugitivity, and Hmong Refugee Epistemologies

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: February 2021

Author: Ma Vang

American Studies, Asian American Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies

During its secret war in Laos (1961–1975), the United States recruited proxy soldiers among the Hmong people. Following the war, many of these Hmong soldiers migrated to the United States with refugee status. In History on the Run Ma Vang examines the experiences of Hmong refugees in the United States to theorize refugee histories and secrecy, in particular those of the Hmong. Vang conceptualizes these histories as fugitive histories, as they move and are carried by people who move. Charting the incomplete archives of the war made secret through redacted US state documents, ethnography, film, and literature, Vang shows how Hmong refugees tell their stories in ways that exist separately from narratives of U.S. empire and that cannot be traditionally archived. In so doing, Vang outlines a methodology for writing histories that foreground refugee epistemologies despite systematic attempts to silence those histories.


“Ma Vang seeks out those places where secrets lie, not to reveal them but to consider their social force as archives and cosmologies of knowledge and power. Pursuing a wide range of inquiries that contribute to larger questions about historiography, ‘official’ histories, refugees, and ex-allies of U.S. foreign ventures, History on the Run is an important and necessary interdisciplinary feat. Stunningly original and thoroughly provocative, it is the most compelling book in refugee studies in years.” — Mimi Thi Nguyen, author of The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages

“In this rigorous and significant work Ma Vang shifts our broader understandings of the connections among state secrecy, racial and colonial war, and refugee subjectivities. By refusing to engage in a simple recovery project or to reveal hidden secrets, Vang offers instead a sophisticated analysis of the structuring logic, function, and effects of state secrecy that demonstrates that it is is liberal military empire's norm, not its exception.” — Jodi Kim, author of Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ma Vang is Assistant Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Merced, and coeditor of Claiming Place: On the Agency of Hmong Women.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. The Lost Bag and the Refugee Archive  1
1. Secrecy as Knowledge  27
2. Missing Things: State Secrets and U.S. Cold War Policy toward Laos  57
3. The Refugee Soldier: A Critique of Recognition and Citizenship in the Hmong Veterans' Naturalization Act of 1997  93
4. The Terrorist Ally: The Case against General Vang Pao  117
5. The Refugee Grandmother: Silence as Presence in The Latehomecomer and Gran Torino  145
Epilogue. Geographic Stories for Refugee Return  179
Notes  189
Bibliography  231
Index  251
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1131-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1027-2