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Profile profile for VongS

Sam Vong

Curator of Asian Pacific American History
Ph.D., History, Yale University
M.A., History, California State University, Los Angeles
B.A., Sociology, University of California, Berkeley 
Pasadena City College, Community college transfer
Research Specialties: 
  • Asian Pacific American history
  • U.S. Immigration history
  • Global Migration and Refugee Studies
  • U.S. Gender and Women's History
  • History of Southeast Asia

Manuscript Project

"The Geopolitics of Compassion: An International History of the Indochinese Refugee Crisis and the Infrastructure of Care, 1960-1994" (in progress)

Collecting Projects

  • Histories of sanctuary and asylum in America;
  • Asian Pacific American women and labor;
  • Asian immigrants in California's agricultural industries;
  • Asians in Latin America


  • Girlhood (It's Complicated)
  • Forgotten Workers: Chinese Migrants and the Building of the Transcontinental Railroad
Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition: 
  • Humanities Research Award, University of Texas at Austin (2016-2019);
  • William Appleman Williams Junior Faculty Research Grant, Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (2017);
  • Research Travel Grant, Argentine Studies Program, Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin (2017);
  • Walter F. Mondale Research Fellowship, Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (2014-2015);
  • American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2011-2012);
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2011-2012, declined);
  • Research Travel Grant, Council on Southeast Asian Studies, Yale University (2009);
  • Fellowship, Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Yale University (2007-2008);
  • Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Scholar, California State University Los Angeles (2004-2005)
Professional Affiliations: 
Association for Asian American Studies
National Council of Public History
Organization of American Historians
American Historical Association
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations


"'Assets of War': Military Displacements, Deterritorialization, and the Strategic Uses of Refugees during the Vietnam War, 1965-1975" Journal of American Ethnic History (forthcoming, 2020)

Abstract: During the Vietnam War, more than three million people were displaced in South Vietnam between 1965 and 1969. US officials and the government of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) struggled to address the ever-growing crisis of internally displaced people. What role did displaced populations play in the war? How were displaced civilians mobilized to advance military objectives and nation-building projects? This article examines how the US and the RVN offered competing interpretations of the role of displaced populations as they sought to address the "refugee problem" in South Vietnam. It examines how the RVN and the US transformed displaced civilians from a burden to an "asset of war," a phrase used by officials to recognize the ideological and political importance of using refugees to achieve territorial security and to gain political legitimacy for the South Vietnam government. American and South Vietnamese officials, this article shows, generated a multitude of administrative categories to define who was and who was not a refugee, revealing the instability of the refugee category and how internally displaced groups were weaponized for different purposes. The voluntary and involuntary movement of villagers, such as Montagnard ethnic groups in central Vietnam, also demonstrated the ways in which the US and RVN sought to engineer population movements in service of the war effort, which inadvertently contributed to the growing refugee problem. The ways in which the US and RVN deployed refugees as "assets of war" in the 1960s laid the groundwork for constructing refugees as politically useful in the post-1975 era.

"'Compassion Gave Us a Special Superpower': Vietnamese Women Leaders, Reeducation Camps, and the Politics of Family Reunification, 1977-1991" Journal of Women's History, vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall 2018): 107-131.

Abstract: This article traces the history of the Families for Vietnamese Political Prisoners Association (FVPPA), a community organized formed and led by Vietnamese women in Virginia. Founded as a self-help group in 1977 to offer support for women whose male relatives were detained in reeducation camps after the Vietnam War, the FVPPA grew into a national organization boasting more than one thousand members. This article tells the story of how Khuc Minh Tho, president of the FVPPA, and her all-female team spearheaded a campaign to free reeducation camp prisoners and reunite their families. The FVPPA propelled the politically sensitive issue of reeducation camp prisoners onto the national stage by mobilizing community members, lobbying public officials and humanitarian organizations, and politicizing family separation. In showing how Vietnamese women crafted social networks and fashioned their own politial identities, this article considers the important role that Vietnamese women have played as community organizers, diplomats, and political leaders.