Airports and airplanes are for many critics key sites for analyzing cultures of modernity, postmodernity, and “supermodernity.” They are understood to be locations from which we might trace the complex movements of the global economy, transnational cultural exchange, and the far-reaching surveillance systems of the United States. Despite the cultural embeddedness of airports, however, they are often named as “non-places” existing outside of memory, history, and “normal time.” And yet it is precisely the in-betweenness of airports that makes them critical sites for the consolidation of memory. Who and what am I departing from? Who and what am I returning to? They are, paradoxically, places without memory and for memory. This is the case in Andrew Pham’s travel memoir Catfish and Mandala (1999) in which air travel is imagined to lack memory while evoking it all the same. In analyzing Pham’s memoir, I first build on the work of Marita Sturken to theorize the remembering carried out in airports and on airplanes. Whereas Sturken goes beyond Nora’s theory of places of memory to scrutinize other memory “technologies,” I focus on the remembering done where memory is perceived to be entirely absent. I then trace this airport memory as it functions within Catfish and Mandala. In conclusion, I consider how air travel frames the idea of a “return to Vietnam” for American veterans of the war.
"Airport Memory: Recalling Vietnam from the Terminal in Andrew Pham’s Travel Writing,"
Criticism: Vol. 57
, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol57/iss2/4