at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Vietnamese Revolutions

Tradition, Revolution, and Market EconomyTradition, Revolution and Market Economy in a North Vietnamese Village 1925-2006
by Hy Luong
Published by University of Hawai’i Press, 2010

Tradition, Revolution, and Market Economy in a North Vietnamese Village examines both continuity and change over eight decades in a small rural village deep in the North Vietnamese countryside. Son Duong, a community near the Red River, experienced firsthand the ravages of French colonialism and the American war, as well as the socialist revolution and Vietnam’s recent reintegration into the global market economy. In this revised and expanded edition of his 1992 book, Revolution in the Village, Hy V. Luong draws on newly available archival documents in Hanoi, narratives by villagers, and three field seasons from the late 1980s to 2006. He situates his finely drawn village portrait within the historical framework of the Vietnamese revolution and the recent reforms in Vietnam. The richness of the oral testimony of surviving villagers enables the author to follow them throughout political and economic upheavals, compiling a wealth of original data as they actively restructure their daily lives. In his analysis of the implications of these data for theoretical models of agrarian transformation, Luong argues that local traditions have played a major role in shaping villagers’ responses to colonialism, socialist policies, and the global market economy. His work, spanning eight decades of sociocultural change, will interest students and scholars of the Vietnamese revolution, agrarian politics, peasant societies, French colonialism, and socialist transformation.

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The Red EarthRed Earth: A Vietnamese Memoir of Life on a Colonial Rubber Plantation
by Tran Tu Binh
Published by Ohio University Press, 1985

Phu Rieng was one of many French rubber plantations in colonial Vietnam; Tran Tu Binh was one of 17,606 laborers brought to work there in 1927, and his memoir is a straightforward, emotionally searing account of how one Vietnamese youth became involved in revolutionary politics. The connection between this early experience and later activities of the author becomes clear as we learn that Tran Tu Binh survived imprisonment on Con Son island to help engineer the general uprising in Hanoi in 1945. The Red Earth is the first of dozens of such works by veterans of the 1924–45 struggle in Vietnam to be published in English translation.

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The Power of Everyday PoliticsThe Power of Everyday Politics: How Vietnamese Peasants Transformed National Policy
by Benedict J. Kerkvliet
Published by Cornell University Press, 2005

Ordinary people’s everyday political behavior can have a huge impact on national policy: that is the central conclusion of this book on Vietnam. In telling the story of collectivized agriculture in that country, Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet uncovers a history of local resistance to national policy and gives a voice to the villagers who effected change. Not through open opposition but through their everyday political behavior, villagers individually and in small, unorganized groups undermined collective farming and frustrated authorities’ efforts to correct the problems. The Power of Everyday Politics is an authoritative account, based on extensive research in Vietnam’s National Archives and in the Red River Delta countryside, of the formation of collective farms in northern Vietnam in the late 1950s, their enlargement during wartime in the 1960s and 1970s, and their collapse in the 1980s. As Kerkvliet shows, the Vietnamese government eventually terminated the system, but not for ideological reasons. Rather, collectivization had become hopelessly compromised and was ultimately destroyed largely by the activities of villagers. Decollectivization began locally among villagers themselves; national policy merely followed. The power of everyday politics is not unique to Vietnam, Kerkvliet asserts. He advances a theory explaining how everyday activities that do not conform to the behavior required by authorities may carry considerable political weight.

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Vietnam's Southern RevolutionVietnam’s Southern Revolution: From Peasant Insurrection to Total War, 1959-1968
by David Hunt
Published by University of Massachusetts Press, 2009

This book offers a path-breaking analysis of the Vietnam War as experienced by the Vietnamese peasantry. In Vietnam, the American government vowed to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people. On the other side, among those who led and sympathized with the insurgents, the term ‘people’s war’ gained a wide currency. Yet while much has been written about those who professed to speak for the Vietnamese population, we know surprisingly little about the everyday life of the peasants who made up the bulk of the country’s inhabitants. This book illuminates that subject. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including interviews conducted by the Rand Corporation with informants from My Tho Province in the Mekong Delta, David Hunt brings to light the daily experience of villagers in the midst of war and revolution.The peasants of southern Vietnam were neither onlookers nor mere victims as fighting raged throughout their country. From the ‘concerted uprising’ in 1959-1960 to the Tet Offensive of 1968, the revolutionary movement they created was in fact the driving force within the war. Known as the ‘Viet Cong’ to their adversaries, the rebels called themselves the ‘Liberation Front.’

“This is a marvelous work of globally inflected social history that marks a sharp and welcome departure from much of the existing literature on the war. Hunt s book takes us for the first time deep into the interior worlds of war and revolution. It is also beautifully written, demonstrating a keen eye for the illuminating example and the succinct quotation. I expect it will find a wide and appreciative audience among general readers but also among scholars and students of the Vietnam War, modern Vietnamese history, peasant politics, the Cold War, and war and society more generally. “

–Mark Philip Bradley, author of ‘Imagining Vietnam: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam

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A World TransformedA World Transformed: The Politics of Culture in Revolutionary Vietnam, 1945-1965
by Kim N.B. Ninh
Published by University of Michigan Press, 2002

A World Transformed looks at the Vietnamese revolution from the perspective of Vietnamese culture itself rather than as a reaction to the Cold War or to the actions of external enemies. Kim N. B. Ninh explores the complex debates within Vietnamese society about the self, culture, and national identity. She shows how a collective sense of the nation’s weakness united communists and many intellectuals, who looked to the establishment of a socialist state to offer both the ideology and the organization that would encourage the emergence of a modern, independent, postcolonial Vietnam.

The study covers the period from the Vietnamese communists’ initial ascent to power in 1945 to the beginning of the escalation of the American involvement in the country’s conflict in 1965, by which time a full-fledged socialist state had been in place in North Vietnam for eleven years. Through a nuanced examination of critical intellectual works, A World Transformed presents a complex view of a period fraught with contradictory possibilities and tensions that continue to resonate in Vietnam today. The extensive use of Vietnamese-language materials, access to archival data never before available, and innovative incorporation of literary and historical sources combine to make this study an invaluable depiction of the Vietnamese revolution.

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