Dịu-Hương Nguyễn – “Eve of Destruction: A Social History of Vietnam’s Royal City, 1957-1967” [PhD]

[ndlr] Annonce de la soutenance de thèse (PhD) de Dịu-Hương Nguyễn sur l’histoire sociale de Huê, l’ancienne ville impériale, en temps de guerre. Résumé de Christoph Giebel sur ce travail qu’il a dirigé. Nous le remercions pour son aimable autorisation pour la publication de cette annonce.

Dr Diu-Huong Nguyen © 2017

With great pleasure I’d like to announce that Dịu-Hương Nguyễn successfully defended her dissertation last week at the University of Washington in Seattle and earned a PhD degree in History with a specialization in modern Viet Nam. Her dissertation is titled “Eve of Destruction: A Social History of Vietnam’s Royal City, 1957-1967” and captures Huế and its residents in the decade between the founding of the University of Huế and the city’s near-total destruction in early 1968. With great sensitivity and attention to detail, Hương Nguyễn is able to recreate in evocative ways the habits of life in Huế, its citizens’ quotidian interactions, activities, and concerns, the mentalité of the times, even the sounds and smells of street life in this former royal city renowned for its tranquility, pastoral ambience, and measured rhythm of public life. While the years 1957-1962 were marked by increasing urbanization and a renewed cultural and intellectual scene, the religious and political upheavals of 1963 rocked the city, and during 1964-1967, war and civil strife cast ominous clouds and crept ever closer to the city.

Hương Nguyễn’s dissertation focuses our attention on several critically understudied areas in the field: on Central Viet Nam and Huế in their own right, on social history and urban transformations, and on Vietnamese human experiences and the voices of ordinary people at a time of violent conflict. It is an important, timely corrective to the still dominant top-down approaches to Viet Nam at war, with their overwhelming emphasis on political and military affairs and their habitual employment of simplistic regional, political and ideological binaries, holdouts from the Cold War. In this dissertation, pre-1968 Huế and its inhabitants reappear in their rich multiplicity and local specificity that have long defied cooptation by any larger claim of the powerful.

Admirably researched under sometimes challenging circumstances, the dissertation is based on materials found in the Provincial Archives of Huế, Viet Nam’s National Archives II and III, multiple media and literary sources, as well as published memoirs and a host of interviews of current and former residents of Huế conducted on three continents. Hương Nguyễn’s doctoral committee at UW comprised Professors Laurie Sears, Raymond Jonas, Miriam Kahn, and Christoph Giebel (chair).  Professors Nguyễn Quang Ngọc and Phạm Hồng Tung at VNU’s History Department and William Frederick at Ohio University’s Southeast Asia Program provided earlier guidance as well. The completion of the dissertation was supported by a prestigious Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies fellowship.  Congratulations, Dr. Nguyễn Dịu-Hương!

C. Giebel

UW-Seattle, USA

Image « à la une » : Vue d’une rue animée de Huê dans les années 1950 (Sontrung’s Blog).