Workshops, conferences 2017

Making Vietnamese History:
Popular and Scholarly Perspectives

Date: 23 June 2017

Venue Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity,
Goettingen, Germany Seminar room in the Old Villa
Hermann-Fge-Weg 12, 37073 Goettingen


Convenor

Ng Thi Thanh Tm, Paul Sorrentino, Peter van der Veer
(Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Goettingen)


Panel Abstract

In this workshop, we explore the question of how Vietnam is made into a historical entity by scholars and popular movements, especially in the modern period. The nature of this historical entity has not ceased to interest scholars, political activists, military strategist as well as spiritual activists, inside Vietnam and beyond the country. Obviously, this is not an abstract scholarly issue only but also deeply entangled with political action, armed violence, and the justification for unification and division. It is an issue that frames much of the work of Keith Taylor, one of the most prominent historians of Vietnam. In his book History of the Vietnamese, Taylor rejects a linear nationalist narrative of historical continuity and unity of Vietnam and the Vietnamese. According to this narrative, the land that is called Vietnam today is a product of spatial expansion, southward from Red River Delta, by the people who have been unified by common language (Vietnamese) and a powerful spirit to resist foreign invasion and rule. In an attempt to move beyond the propaganda of memory and memorializing yet without falling into a symmetrical narrative of resistance to the state, Taylor proposes to explore instead the possibility of imagining Asian surfaces as something other than already teleologically conceived parts of a nation to be, and by doing that to go beyond both nation and region.

Taking up Taylor’s proposal, this workshop is envisaged as a deep conversation and direct engagement between history and anthropology. With the participation of historians (including Taylor himself) and anthropologists, we aim to juxtapose a “Vietnamese history” as preserved in archives with a “Vietnamese history” that lives in oral, social history and popular movements. As a result we hope to come to a better understanding of the role of history and historiography in shaping political actions and cultural discourses in Vietnam today. The main purpose of such an interaction would be to get a more informed understanding what is at stake in the division of North and South Vietnam, of Vietnam in relation to ‘China’, as well as the place of the Khmer in Vietnam; but also to think about the relation between ‘official history’ and ‘popular history’. We are thinking of short presentations of thoughts related to past or current research and much time for discussion.


Program


09.30-11.30   PART I: HISTORY

Keith Taylor (Cornell University):
Vietnamese historiography between options and the norm

Olga Dror (Texas University):
The two Vietnams: socializing the new generation in the DRV and the RVN (1965-1975)

Pascal Bourdeaux (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes):
Religious history and its quest for autonomy: first comments on the interactions between history and religion in the case of Vit Nam


12.30-14.30   PART II: ANTHROPOLOGY

Tam Ngo (Max Planck Institute):
Between a rock and a hard place: sacred geography and spiritual warfare against China in Vietnam

Paul Sorrentino (Max Planck Institute):
Sinicized bureaucracy and Vietnamese autochtony in the Four Palace worship

Peter van der Veer (Max Planck Institute):
Nation and nationalism from a comparative perspective


14.30-15.00   Short (ten minutes) presentations of the work of

Vuong Ngoc Thi (on Nung residents of Sino-Vietnamese borderland) and
Mai Thanh Nga (on Vietnamese immigrants in Berlin)


15.00-18.00   Podium discussion


19.00-20.00   Project discussion