Date of Thesis

5-9-2013

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Comparative Humanities

First Advisor

John Hunter

Second Advisor

Bill Flack

Abstract

In my thesis, I incorporate both psychological research and personal narratives in order to explain why, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the United States officially recognized Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder while the Vietnamese government did not. The absence of Vietnamese studies on the impact of PTSD on veterans, in comparison to the abundance of research collected on American soldiers, is reflective not of a disparity in the actual prevalence of the disorder, but of the influence of political policy on the scope of Vietnamese psychology. Personal narratives from Vietnamese civilians and soldiers thus reveal accounts of trauma otherwise hidden due to the absence of Vietnamese psychological research. Although these two nations conspicuously differed in their respective responses to the prevalence of psychological trauma in war veterans, these responses demonstrated that both the recognition and rejection of PTSD was a result of sociopolitical factors: political ideologies, rather than scientific reasons, dictated whether the postwar trajectory of psychological research focused on fully exploring the impact of PTSD on veteran populations. The association of military defeat with psychological trauma thus fixed attention on certain groups of veterans, including former American and South Vietnamese soldiers, while ignoring the impact of trauma on veterans of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. The correlation of a soldier¿s ideological background with psychological trauma, rather than exposure to actual traumatic experiences, demonstrates that cultural and sociopolitical factors are far more influential in the construction of PTSD than objective indicators of the disorder¿s prevalence. Culturally-constructed responses to disorders such as PTSD therefore account for the subjective treatment of mental illness. The American and Vietnamese responses to veterans suffering from PTSD both demonstrated that the evidence of mental health problems in an individual does not guarantee an immediate or appropriate diagnosis and treatment regimen. External authorities whose primary aims are not necessarily concerned with the objective treatment of all victims of mental illness subjectively dictate mental health care policy, and therefore risk ignoring or marginalizing the needs of individuals in need of proper treatment.

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