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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Room LG18, Law Faculty (Sidgwick Site)
Event date: 
Thursday, 15 February, 2024 - 14:00
Event organiser: 

China Research Seminar given by Dr Zach Fredman, Duke Kunshan University

This talk examines how American servicemen’s access to sex and good times on overseas rest and recreation (R&R) trips during the Vietnam War both underpinned and imperiled the U.S.-led war effort and anti-communist state-building across the U.S.-allied Western Pacific. Nearly 2.5 million American servicemen participated in the R&R program, which guaranteed each soldier a five-or-six-night overseas excursion to one of the following destinations: Tokyo, Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Honolulu, or Penang. U.S. and host country authorities, I show, collaborated to provide American military personnel with morale-boosting, hygienic access to local women’s bodies while promoting capitalist economic development and assuaging historically charged sensitivities about national sovereignty. But their efforts did not go unopposed: locals resisted the program at every R&R site, sometimes violently. This project shows how sex workers and soldiers were at the center of the entanglement between U.S. empire and postcolonial nation-building in Asia during the Cold War.

Zach Freeman is associate professor of history and associate chair of the Division of Arts and Humanities at Duke Kunshan University, a Sino-U.S. joint venture university in Suzhou, China. A scholar of U.S.-East Asian relations, he is author of The Tormented Alliance: American Servicemen and the Occupation of China (University of North Carolina Press, 2022).

Professor Adam Yuet Chau: