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The Development of Vietnamese Studies since 1980: A Roundtable in Honor of Prof. Hue-Tam Ho Tai. Session 2: Memory, Memoir, and Gender

Fri, April 1, 5:15 to 7:15pm, Washington State Convention Center, 6th Floor, Room 603

Session Submission Type: Roundtable Session


This two-part roundtable explores the transformation of Vietnamese Studies through the scholarship and mentorship of Hue-Tam Ho Tai, who began teaching at Harvard University in 1980. The second session considers the impact of the analysis of the complex contours of memory, memoir, and gender that Tai developed in three path-breaking books. In Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (1992), Tai argues that questions about Vietnamese women's roles provided a means for radical intellectuals to debate the future of the nation. As editor of The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late-Socialist Vietnam (2001), Tai considers the relationship between the nation and the making of historical memory: How does one explore the social bases of memory? How does gender shape collective memory? What and who are forgotten and why? In Passion, Betrayal, and Revolution in Colonial Saigon (2010), Tai combines memoir, newspapers, archival sources, and family stories to attend to the details of women's lives, the frameworks and sources through which those lives can be imagined and narrated, and the material and ideological dimensions of gender in times of rapid change.

Session chair Mark Philip Bradley introduces the roundtable's themes by raising questions about how particular constructions of memory refract and ultimately distort efforts to understand the places of different regions or actors. Christina Schwenkel discusses Tai's theoretical contribution to memory studies and the significance of her interdisciplinary methodology for anthropologists engaged in historically informed analyses of socioeconomic change in Vietnam. Hy Van Luong considers how Tai's historical approach to gender in Vietnam relates to contemporary ethnographic data on gender relations in different regions of Vietnam. Ann Marie Leshkowich discusses the relationship between gender, class differentiation, life narratives, and the expansion of a market economy. Inspired by Tai’s analysis of women’s autobiography, Nguyễn Thị Phương Châm collected life histories from Vietnamese women who migrated to China for marriage. She explains how this approach has transformed Vietnamese scholarship by linking women’s experiences to broader issues of urbanization, traditional culture, and social change. Professor Tai will offer reflections and comments at the end of the session.

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