Viet Nam: Beyond the Frontiers

Nhung Tuyet Tran
Department of History
University of California, Los Angeles

Project Description:

Objective: To convene a conference of international scholars and graduate students from a variety of disciplines to highlight the transnational character of Vietnamese Studies. This conference will help to bridge the distances between Vietnamese and Western scholars, Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American Studies, graduate students and scholars, and across methodological boundaries. In addition, the papers presented will draw from comparative perspectives in Chinese as well as Southeast Asian Studies and Asian American Studies.

The end of the Cold War has removed much of the rational for governmental support of Vietnamese Studies in the United States. Advances in economic and democratic reform, and the spread of communication, immigration, and tourism bring Viet Nam closer to American soil than hitherto imagined. Premised on the belief that continued support of Vietnamese studies will help to forge new directions in research, I have been organizing a conference that will address specific issues in the field.

This conference will serve as a forum to build relationships in four key areas of Vietnamese studies: between Vietnamese and Western scholars, Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American Studies, graduate students and established scholars, and across methodological boundaries. The conference is premised on the assumption that intellectual interaction between these areas will help to forge new directions in the field.

Panels will represent a broad range of topics that approach the study of Viet Nam across methodological and spatial boundaries. All graduate students and scholars currently researching on aspects of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American culture, economics, history, politics, and religion have been encouraged to submit abstracts. Advertising for the conference would be conducted via various list serves on the internet, fliers, and news groups.

To date, many graduate students and scholars have expressed their interest in participating in the conference. Samples of abstracts submitted include presentations on fifteenth century Vietnamese ceramics found in Java, a reassessment of traditional Vietnamese diplomacy that moves beyond the binary of two actors, comparisons between Chinese and Vietnamese legal codes through the examination of women's lives in the early modern period, and a study of contemporary Vietnamese artists and the transnational nature of their work as they transgress spatial boundaries. These few works exemplify the cross-methodological and comparative nature of this conference.

While other graduate programs hold conferences to discuss East Asian issues, this conference would be unique for several reasons. First, it addresses a variety of issues and methodological concerns from a main point of reference: how cooperation between different areas of Vietnamese Studies can help to create new perspectives in the field. Second, this conference offers graduate students an opportunity to share their research in panels alongside established scholars in the field. Third, by including both Vietnamese and Western scholars, this conference would provide a forum for intellectual exchange that is uncommon in the field. By embracing both Vietnamese Studies and Vietnamese-American Studies, this conference will specifically address the rift between the two fields and serve as a forum for future cooperation.

Finally and significantly, this conference highlights UCLA's commitment to the expansion of Southeast Asian Studies. Since the University established a Southeast Asian Studies Center in the fall of 1999, faculty and graduate students have worked to build Vietnamese Studies at UCLA, evidenced by the growing number of graduate students in history, comparative literature, Asian-American Studies, sociology, and political science. The conference would be an ideal opportunity to showcase UCLA's commitment to building Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American Studies.

Following the conference, a report of proceedings will be made available to all sponsors. In addition, every effort will be made to publish the papers presented into a coherent volume of works. In the second year of the grant, 2001-2002, workshops and meetings will be organized to prepare the manuscripts for publication. This conference is a graduate student initiative with support from faculty members in the history department. In addition to securing direct funding from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, I have pursued other potential donors. Grant requests to a number of offices throughout UCLA campus have been made. In light of the opening of archives in Vietnam, continued intellectual exchange between Vietnamese and Western scholars, and the need to continue to inform Vietnamese Studies with new methodological and comparative perspectives, I respectfully submit this proposal for consideration.

Conference Schedule

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2002