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Authors

Angela Morgan

Advisory Committee Chair

Loretta A Cormier

Advisory Committee Members

Courtney Andrews

Chris Kyle

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2021

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

During the Second Indochina War (known to Americans as the Vietnam War), the United States conducted a “secret war” from 1964 to 1973, dropping more than 2 million tons of bombs over Laos, including 270 million cluster sub-munitions. Up to 30% of ordnance did not detonate, leaving about 80 million live sub-munitions to contaminate the land (along with other live ordnance such as large bombs and landmines). Fourteen of Laos’ 17 provinces, and around 25% of its 10,500 villages, are contaminated by this unexploded ordnance (UXO). Clearance efforts have been underway since 1994, but progress is slow, and UXO impacts to the country and its people such as death, injury, disability, mental health issues, underdevelopment, and poverty continue into the present day. The post-conflict reconciliation process between the U.S. and Laos is incomplete since the U.S. has not taken full responsibility for its actions and the resulting and ongoing impacts of UXO. Two areas that were heavily bombed during the war, Viengxay Caves in Houaphan Province, and Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province, are landscapes of memory where the war is literally present today. These lieux de mémoire or sites of memory are remote but popular tourist destinations. In this thesis I will analyze these two sites using the theoretical framework of interaction ritual chains to show that the “ingredients” for a transformative tourist experience are present and that this kind of transformative experience can function as a process of post-conflict reconciliation from the bottom up.

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