Studying Republican Vietnam: Issues, Challenges, and Prospects
October 14-15, 2019
University of Oregon Campus
Scholarly interest in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) has surged in the last decade. The conventional wisdom in Western scholarship until recently was closely in line with communist propaganda, either ignoring the RVN or portraying it as an American creation in the US global struggle against communism. In this narrative, the government led by Ho Chi Minh and his successors represented the true aspirations of most Vietnamese, while the RVN had little domestic legitimacy. The conflict in Vietnam during 1955-1975 was less a civil war than an American war against the Vietnamese nation as a whole.
The recently expanding interest in Republican Vietnam stems from a combination of newly available sources since the late 1990s and the emergence of a younger generation of historians less shackled by the biases of the previous generation. The new scholarship rejects the old binary of communists-as-patriots versus anticommunists-as-collaborators. Communism is treated as merely one of many political tendencies in modern Vietnam and had no more inherent legitimacy than its rivals. Republican, monarchist and anticommunist ideologies and organizations are given full agency as agents of history who contributed to the evolution of contemporary Vietnam despite their eventual defeat at the hands of the communists. In the new scholarship, the conflicts between and within North and South Vietnam were at the core civil wars whose origins can be traced back to the 1920s’ clashes in colonial Vietnam among republican, communist, monarchist and other ideas.
The events that transpired since 1975 left behind legacies as complicated as the war itself. After its military
victory, the communist regime sought to eradicate any traces of the RVN by imprisoning its former personnel, nationalizing its capitalist economy, and suppressing its lively culture and robust civil society. Unwilling or unable to bear the hardship, persecution, and communist dictatorship, hundreds of thousands fled Vietnam, creating the largest exodus in the country’s history. Among what the diaspora carried with it to foreign shores were certain Republican values, memories of the RVN, and the trauma of life under communism. Among South Vietnamese who stayed behind, the legacies persisted and re-emerged in various aspects when the regime was forced to accept market reform in the late 1980s.
Republican Vietnam is a broad subject, extending through the 20th century and beyond. The issues range from the spread of Republican ideas to French Indochina at the turn of the century to the memories of the RVN among the diaspora and the resurgence of Republican values in Vietnam today, and everything in between. We invite proposals from US, international and Vietnam-based scholars to address the following questions and topics:
- Vietnamese republicanism: its character, history, evolution, current status, and historical relations to communism and monarchism
- The RVN’s life and legacies: political, security, economic, social, cultural, religious and educational institutions and policies under the RVN
- The experience of the RVN in nation-building and in the struggle for democratic rule and constitutional order compared with other postcolonial contexts
- The evolution of Republican ideas, leaderships, and institutions from the First Republic (1955-63) to the Interregnum (1963-67) to the Second Republic (1967-75)
- The significance of the Republican experience in Vietnamese history; lessons from that experience
- Parallels between the civil wars of 20th-century Vietnam and earlier civil wars in Vietnamese history
- Historiography of the RVN: in today’s Vietnam, in foreign scholarship, among the diaspora
- Anticommunism in Vietnam and among the diaspora abroad: its main themes and organizations; its relationship with republicanism
- The diaspora: political, economic, cultural, religious, and educational organizations; issues of trauma, memories, and identity
- The study of the RVN and Vietnamese republicanism: challenges and prospects
Please submit your paper proposals by March 1st, 2019 to Tuong Vu, Department of Political Science, University of Oregon, at StudyingRepublicanVietnamConf@gmail.com. Authors whose proposals are selected will be notified by April 15th, 2019. A draft of proposed papers is due by August 15th.
Paper presenters will be provided with funds for travel and accommodation during the Workshop. We expect to edit and publish workshop papers with a university press.