The Council on Southeast Asia Studies Brown Bag Seminar presents
Merav Shohet, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Boston University:
“Silence and Sacrifice: Family Stories of Care and the Limits of Love in Vietnam.”
Merav Shohet’s new book, Silence and Sacrifice: Family Stories of Care and the Limits of Love in Vietnam draws on over a decade of research based in central Vietnam to explore what happens across generations to families who survived colonialism, war, and massive political and economic upheaval. Placing personal sacrifice at the center of her story, Shohet recounts vivid experiences of conflict, love, and loss under Vietnam’s changing regimes. Illustrating the dynamics of micro and macro narrative interactions, she excavates how multiple generations narratively navigate conflicting commitments to those whom they are expected to love while affirming or contesting local versions of justice. Through these stories of troubled and troubling care, Silence and Sacrifice challenges the prevailing idea that sacrifice is merely a blood-filled religious ritual or patriotic act. Today, routine sacrifices—made largely by women—precariously knit kin together by silencing their suffering and reifying cross-cutting gender, age, class, and political hierarchies. Rethinking ordinary ethics, this intimate ethnography reveals how quotidian acts of sacrifice help family members forge a sense of continuity in the face of trauma and decades of turbulence and change.
Merav Shohet is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Boston University. Her work integrates psychological-medical and linguistic anthropology to examine care, affect, ethics, and gender in relation to kinship, narrative, eating disorders, and the end of life in Vietnam and North America. She has published articles on these topics in American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Ethos, and the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, among others. Two of her current projects include an SSRC-funded study of stigma syndemics and end-stage kidney disease in disenfranchised urban communities fighting Covid-19 and a longitudinal study of practices of elder-care and inequality in Israel’s transforming kibbutzim.