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Harnessing Foundational Myths: Hùng Kings in Three Vietnams, 1965-2015 - Sponsored by the Vietnam Studies Group

Fri, April 1, 10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 6th Floor, Room 602

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


The Hùng kings, who allegedly ruled between 2879-258 B.C.E., are considered by many Vietnamese as ancestors and founders of the nation. The historical and mythological characters of their existence have been discussed in numerous scholarly works. While unanimously seeing the Hung king narrative as mythical, the panel’s participants approach it from a new perspective: how it has been “harnessed” and employed by the three Vietnamese states – the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV), and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) – between 1965 and 2015.
Papers on this interdisciplinary panel, combining historical and anthropological approaches and complementing each other, analyze the Hùng king narrative vis-à-vis causes promoted by different states, academics, and entrepreneurs and establish a basis for their incorporation into a broader analysis of national discourse.
Dror analyzes the Hùng kings in the RVN between 1965 and 1975 as a unifying political and social force against hippies and communists through organizing annual festivals. Berry shows how at the same time in the DRV, while abandoning the tradition of annual festivals, the authorities promoted academic works to establish historical proof of the Hùng kings’ existence. Bridging the RVN and the SRV, Kelley considers how scholarship of a South Vietnamese scholar on the Hùng kings and antiquity was first denounced and then appropriated by academics in the SRV. Nguyễn Phúc Anh takes the Hùng kings into the global arena to consider their tradition in relationship between Vietnamese in the SRV and in the diaspora through engagement with socialist and neoliberal economies.

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