New Perspectives on the War for Southern Vietnam

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:30 AM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 1 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Jessica M. Chapman, Williams College
What has long been missing from the vast number of studies of the long struggle for Indochina is a nuanced understanding of southern Vietnamese culture, society, and politics. The region was always central to the struggle. The failure of French and Viet Minh negotiators to agree upon the fate of the south contributed greatly to the outbreak of the First Indochina War, and Washington’s determination to prevent South Vietnam from falling under communist control led to the even more destructive Second Indochina War. Yet until recently, historians have known too little about southern Vietnam’s heterodox domestic political milieu. Recent scholarship, much of which is rooted in Vietnamese archival research, has illuminated the complexities of southern Vietnamese political life from both the top-down view of Ngo Dinh Diem’s government and the bottom-up perspective of his domestic political rivals. Such studies occasion a reevaluation of long-held understandings of French and American intervention in Vietnam, as well as reconsideration of the process by which the Vietnamese communists sought to consolidate power nationwide. This presentation will address the ways in which these new studies of the south challenge or complicate existing narratives of the Vietnam Wars and suggest new lines of inquiry that scholars might pursue profitably in their wake.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>