Asian American Speaker Series: Cathy J. Schlund-Vials

Prosthetic Ecologies: (Re)Membering Disability, Curating Culpability, and Laos PDR’s Dirty War

From 1954 to 1973, the United States dropped thousands of bombs on the small country of Laos in what came to be known as the Dirty War. To this day, small bombs that failed to detonate upon release litter the country and threaten innocent civilians who happen upon them. Contact with these bombs over the past half century has resulted in missing limbs and other disabilities for many Laotians. In 2008, the Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Centre (COPE) Museum was established in Laos in order to raise awareness of such disabilities and the advances in prosthetics that are being pursued to address the issue. Coming from the University of Connecticut, Cathy J. Schlund-Vials shared her research on this part of Laotian history, as well as her in-depth analysis of how the COPE Museum acts as a “call for justice when there has yet to be a trial.” She emphasized that while there may not be a judicial option to prosecute the human rights violations that occurred—and are still occurring—the museum offers a space for Laotians to publicize the atrocities that the United States committed against their country through their bombings. Furthermore, the museum and the related Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) continually pressure the United States to not only admit its past wrongs, but also reform its current policy to condemn any future use of cluster munitions like those that were used in the Dirty War.