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Sarah Wagner
University of North Carolina, Greensboro (Greensboro, NC 27412-5068)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2009 – 6/30/2009

Naming the Unknown: Technology, Memory, and Vietnam MIAs

This research project is a social analysis of the genetic technology used to identify unrecognizable remains of US soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. Focusing on the case of First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, whose remains were exhumed from the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and identified through DNA testing, this study will explore the significance of the identification process for families of the missing, fellow soldiers, scientists, and state officials. Through ethnographic and archival research, the project aims to demonstrate how the use of DNA testing has altered modes of commemoration and introduced new expectations about government accountability for soldiers missing and presumed dead. The research will draw on notions of home, the politics of memory, and the intersection of individualism and collectivism to understand the influence genetic testing has assumed in this unique negotiation between the state and its citizens, civilian and military alike.