Project

The Politics of History and Memory in Vietnam

Goal: Since the beginning of the reform period in Vietnam in the 1980s the Vietnamese leadership has relaxed its hold on the public sphere and the private life of citizens which has resulted in the transformation of Vietnamese society. This process has been reinforced by Vietnams open door policy. This project analyses to what degree these changes have also led to a diversification of narratives about Vietnamese history. It will show whether Vietnamese journals of history, history textbooks, websites, museums and historical sites in Vietnam have become the locus of national and transnational historiographic debates and whether the official Party historiography has started to reframe the representation of Vietnams past.

Date: 1 August 2014 - 31 July 2017

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Project log

Martin Grossheim
added 2 research items
This paper discusses the failed policy of reconciliation carried out by the leadership in Hanoi after the collapse of the Republic of Vietnam (commonly known as „South Vietnam“) on April 30, 1975. It argues that in spite of all promises to the contrary after the end of the war the victorious North systematically dicriminated Southern Vietnamese who had worked for the former Saigonese government or the United States in Vietnam. Furthermore, I will analyse in which way the leadership in Hanoi tried to write the Republic of Vietnam out of history by destroying „sites of memory“ (lieux de mémoire). In the following I discuss how this policy together with the building of socialism in the southern part of the country led to serious social conflicts and finally to a massive exodus of approximately one million Vietnamese. In the second part of the paper, I will show that since the beginning of the reform policy in Vietnam (đổi mới) in the 1980s the failed integration of many defeated South Vietnamese after the end of the war has increasingly been adressed in “memory debates” among Vietnamese abroad and at home. The fate of the former South Vietnamese war cemetery in Biên Hòa will serve as an example.
In this article I claim that history is still an important source of legitimacy for the Communist Party of Vietnam. The ‘correct view’ of history is propagated and defended by a ‘memory machine’. To illustrate the inner workings of the Vietnamese I present two case-studies: the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian October Revolution in 2017 in Vietnam and the representation of the history of socialism in Vietnamese history textbooks. I show that by celebrating anniversaries such as the 100th anniversary of the Russian October Revolution in orthodox ways and by preserving the monopoly of the propagation of history via textbooks used at schools and university Vietnam’s history in the twentieth century is still presented as part of the world history of socialism and as being deeply inspired by the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union.
Martin Grossheim
added a research item
Examination of the treatment in Vietnamese history textbooks of national and world history against the backdrop of the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc countries suggests that the authors of these textbooks fear that what happened in the Soviet Union could also happen in Vietnam. The purpose of the textbooks’ depiction of the past is to allay these fears. The textbooks reflect Vietnam’s turn back towards China after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and of socialist countries in Eastern Europe. For the leadership in Hanoi, the emphasis on fraternal ties with China has, however, recently lost its allure. Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea have, in turn, prompted many Vietnamese to demand a more comprehensive coverage of Sino–Vietnamese relations in history textbooks.
Martin Grossheim
added a research item
This paper shows that since the beginning of the reform period in 1986 the regime in Hanoi has taken great pains to create the image of the state having legitimate and, indeed, heroic security organs that acted as the ‘saviors of the Vietnamese revolution’ and still serve as the ‘shield and sword’ of the Vietnamese Communist Party. I argue that while previously the socialist state used to regard the history of its security organs as top secret, over the last few years, a huge amount of resources have been mobilized to actively propagate a sacred and romanticized image of the security apparatus.
Martin Grossheim
added a project goal
Since the beginning of the reform period in Vietnam in the 1980s the Vietnamese leadership has relaxed its hold on the public sphere and the private life of citizens which has resulted in the transformation of Vietnamese society. This process has been reinforced by Vietnams open door policy. This project analyses to what degree these changes have also led to a diversification of narratives about Vietnamese history. It will show whether Vietnamese journals of history, history textbooks, websites, museums and historical sites in Vietnam have become the locus of national and transnational historiographic debates and whether the official Party historiography has started to reframe the representation of Vietnams past.