Risky Commons of Tragedy: Ubiquity and Exceptionality of Dioxin Risk in Central Vietnam

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"When we were invited to apply for this panel for the International Commons Conference, we were given the task by our panel organizers to think about the implications of looking at places like battlefields, military bases and toxic disaster sites as the 'commons of tragedy.' Sites of previous tragedy can be preserved, for example, in the form of peace park or through the erection of monuments, and turned into a symbolic resource for commemoration and for tourism. The access to the meanings and the actual remuneration from these historical heritage sites can be exclusive. Who has the right to bear witness to the tragic past? Who should benefit from its contemporary us age ? Such iron ic benefits associated with commons of tragedy, however, also come with a cost. The boundary of excluded spaces such as military bases, Demilitarized Zones, and toxic disaster sites are often porous. Toxic chemicals leak through the boundaries of designated exclusionary 'hotspots', just as noise, pollution and the culture of violence 'leak' out of military bases and expose the surrounding communities to dangers. And because risk, or a 'potential harm,' has its own psychological, economic and sociological side-effects, the discursive management of the extent of such leakages is also an important element of the commons of tragedy. In this presentation, I explore how exceptionality and ubiquity of risk of dioxin are invoked in A Luoi in a tacit negotiation of stigma and privileges associated with victimhood it signified."
IASC, Vietnam War, risk