Archives par mot-clé : Keith W. Taylor

Hommage à Nguyên Thê Anh – par Keith W. Taylor (2008)

Nous postons ci-dessous un extrait (préface) de l’hommage rendu par l’historien américain Keith W. Taylor (Cornell University) à son collègue Nguyên Thê Anh lors de la parution d’un volume collectif édité en 2008 aux Indes savantes. Publié avec l’autorisation de l’auteur qui tenait à rappeler l’importance du travail rigoureux et novateur ainsi que l’indépendance d’esprit de son ami décédé.

Les historiens Nguyên Thê Anh et Keith W. Taylor en discussion lors d’un panel au 6e Congrès du GIS Asie à Paris le 28 juin 2017 © photo FG

Nguyen The Anh’s contribution to contemporary scholarship on Vietnam has been to inspire and to sustain a stream of academic thought that is both modern and national. His ability to countenance cultural diversity and a multi-centered national historiography contrasts with the recycling of traditional oligarchic absolutism masquerading as revolutionary nationalism that has prioritized scholarship in Vietnam since 1975. He has made a legacy not only with distinguished careers in two countries and with the contents of his work, but also by the nurturing encouragement that he has given to students and colleagues, to which this volume is a tribute.

Nguyen The Anh’s scholarship covers a wide range of topics and reveals a fresh and lively mind that is not confined by any form of dogma. He pioneered the study of the Nguyen dynasty long before it became fashionable to do so. This was the only major Vietnamese dynasty not based in Hanoi; it was a “southern” dynasty that could not be accommodated in a Hanoi-centric historiography except as a type of disloyalty to the nation, and, thusly categorized, it was considered unworthy of study. By researching this dynasty, Nguyen The Anh did not simply indicate resistance to the romanticized xenophobic heroics of revolutionary nationalism, and he did not merely open intellectual space for other ways of conceptualizing a Vietnamese historiography, but he offered a positive content to this option, a Vietnam engaged with the outside world rather than reactive and embattled, a Vietnam that had the intellectual confidence to accept and work through the inevitable confusions of rapid change and negotiated reform rather than giving in to the revolutionary temptation to set everything right with great spams of violence. This is increasingly important as Vietnamese studies moves further into the post-revolutionary era and as Vietnamese search with increasing urgency for alternatives to a worn-out vision of their national past.

My own appreciation of Nguyen The Anh can be conveyed by three themes that I believe are exemplified in his life and work: he reveals the creative energy produced by cross-border encounters whether understood as intranational or international; eschewing the simplistic inevitabilities of revolutionary ideology, he reveals national modernity in the experience of those who, once the revolutionary storm has been endured, must still live with the vicissitudes of gradual reform and change; finally, he reveals how, in the diaspora, a positive historiographic vision of the Vietnamese nation is kept alive through efforts to authorize Vietnam’s place in the contemporary world with a Vietnamese past that does not continually recycle in new forms of dogmatism.

Within these three themes is a tension between two fundamentally different ways of imagining Vietnam’s entrance to the modern world; these ways are exemplified by the two men who have become emblematic of early twentieth-century Vietnamese thought: Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh. While Phan Boi Chau stood for revolutionary violence to resist French colonialism, Phan Chu Trinh advocated using the French to achieve reform and national renewal without violence. Those who chose to follow the path of violence has unsurprisingly prevailed; in doing so, they proposed a historiography that aims to justify the violence their ambitions have produced, and they propagated a national caricature of heroes constantly at war against foreign agression. What time has shown is that the wisdom of Phan Chu Trinh was deeper than that of Phan Boi Chau. Violence offers no shortcut to the future; on the contrary, it cuts a swath of human pain and fear that makes a mockery of the end to which it is thought to be a means.

The wisdom of Phan Chu Trinh is to openly encounter the alien with confidence that what is truly worth preserving, one’s own moral nature, cannot be destroyed without one’s own complicity. He understood the nation not as the fixed identity demanding obedience but as a project in motion inviting participation. In contrast, the career of Phan Boi Chau was propelled by a simple-minded determination to expel the foreigner in the name of a national identity that would in some natural way reassert itself once this was accomplished. The Vietnamese communists followed the path of Phan Boi Chau and we can now evaluate the results of that experiment as Vietnam continues to recover from decades of war and now struggles to enter the modern world on the path of Phan Chu Trinh.

The range of Nguyen The Anh’s scholarship is truly remarquable. He has writing many detailed studies of specific topics as well as broad studies that synthesize and analyze information from long periods of time. His work includes historical studies of geology, agriculture, and climatology; ideology and religion including Buddhism, Confucianism, popular religion and Marxism; commerce and trade; warfare; Sino-Vietnamese relations; relations between Vietnam and the West; East Asian and Southeast history; the history of the U.S.; the history of Vietnam generally; topics in Vietnamese history from the 15th through the 20th centuries, with particular emphasis on the Nguyen Dynastic and the French Colonial periods; and also studies of post-1945 Vietnamese history. This body of works engages all three themes mentioned above (border experiences, non-revolutionary nationalism, and a global view of the nation) with a large-minded confidence in being Vietnamese that can focus upon contact and change rather than identity and battle.

For example, in his work, borders are primarily places of encounter rather than demarcation. This theme to some extent can be understood as reflecting a “southern” rather than a “northern” Vietnamese perspective on borders. While the northern Vietnamese border has been fixed in one place for centuries, the southern border had expanded dramatically and has opened up contact with many other peoples and polities. A suspicion of “foreigners” and a defensive attitude toward borders is often taken as a “traditional Vietnamese perspective,” but, if so, it ignores the southern experience, which has successfully tested a sense of “being Vietnamese” amidst great cultural, linguistic, social, and economic diversity.

In the same vein lies a stream of thought about how the nation has entered what we call the modern world. While the dominant view has emphasized northern-oriented visions of national continuity going back thousands of years as the cornerstone of the modern nation, Nguyen The Anh understands the implications of a very simple fact: that the modern nation of Vietnam is gift of the south. It arose in the south, from Saigon, in the late eighteenth century, with the founders of the Nguyen dynasty, which created, for the first time ever, the Vietnam that we see on the map today. This Vietnam was put together by armies marching north, not south, from the so-called “frontier,” often disdained as a place of contamination, not from the “ancient heartland” celebrated by revolutionary enthusiasts.

Also, when southern viewpoints were disallowed expression in Vietnam, Nguyen The Anh has provided leadership for international scholarship that has remained free to explore the great complexity of Vietnamese culture and historical experience, moving far beyond the brave simplicities of revolutionaries. This is a great gift for Vietnam today as the post-revolutionary era offers opportunities for a more diverse climate of opinion.

Finally, I want to mention a fourth aspect of Nguyen The Anh’s legacy, which is of a different order, namely his reputation as an excellent historian who has rigorously studied texts and archival materials. He has been a mentor for many students who have learned how to be scholars from his example, and this will continue to have a positive effect upon the study of Vietnam in the future. Although his work arrives at theoretical implications, it grows from the discipline of scientific investigation rather than from prior ideological commitments.

For many scholars of Nguyen The Anh’s generation, living through the great upheavals caused by the decline of colonialism, the rise of revolutionary nationalism, and civil wars for control of the nation state, scholarship is a form of politics, a means to affirm a moral judgment against one’s political enemies, a sublimated form of resentment directed not only at what is understood as a dominating alien power of a rival national power, but also at once’s national self because of the nation’s inability to maintain the uncontaminated purity of its pre-colonial origins. Nguyen The Anh’s work has not succumbed to this simplistic reduction of scholarship to ideology. On the contrary, it has been a constant source of inspiration for scholarship that responds to an unfettered human curiosity about the past and a commitment to scientific methodological norms. This is no small achievement in the context of modern Vietnamese studies. […]

Keith W. Taylor, 2008.

Lien vers l’ouvrage :

Vietnam’s pathfinder

Hommage de l’historien K.W. Taylor (professeur en études culturelles sino-vietnamiennes au département des études asiatiques de l’Université de Cornell) à son collègue John K. Whitmore, historien du Viêt-Nam à l’Université de Michigan, récemment décédé.

John Kremers Whitmore (1940–2020) was the pioneer of Vietnamese studies in the United States, not only because of his own research and publications but equally because he trained and nurtured new generations of young scholars. In the 1960s, Vietnamese studies in the United States hardly existed. There were anti-war academics, mostly specialising in American history, with a few having expertise in some Southeast Asian country other than Vietnam. But scholars who studied Vietnam as a country and not just as a war were exceedingly rare. Only one American was devoted to the study of Vietnam on its own terms, and that was John Whitmore.

Lire la suite : Mekong Review, November 2020. URL :

Illustration “à la une” : Dr John K. Whitmore at a Chinese–Vietnamese boundary marker in Qinzhou, Guangxi, China, 2008.
Photo: Sun Laichen

Séminaire de recherche exceptionnel sur le Viêt-Nam avec Olga Dror & Keith W. Taylor – Inalco, 22 mai 2018

[ndlr] Séminaire de recherche exceptionnel en études vietnamiennes à l’Inalco, mardi 22 mai 2018, 13h30-17h00. A ne pas manquer.

L’Inalco et l’Université Paris Diderot sont heureux de vous inviter à une séance exceptionnelle de leur séminaire de recherche en études vietnamiennes, avec deux invités :

– Olga Dror, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University :

« Oublier et se souvenir du massacre de Huế, Tết 1968 »


★ ★ ★

– Pr. Keith W. Taylor, Cornell University :

« Autour du poème ‘Tứ Thời Khúc’ en caractères démotiques du lettré Hoàng Sĩ Khải (XVIe siècle) »


La séance aura lieu le mardi 22 mai 2018, de 13h30 à 17h00, dans les salons de l’Inalco, 2 rue de Lille, 75007 Paris.

Évènement ouvert à tous. Soyez les bienvenus !

Image “à la une” : Huê, le 14 avril 1968, la vie reprend son cours dans les décombres de l’offensive du Têt © Bettmann/CORBIS sur le site de Manh Hai

[parution] Keith W. Taylor : A History of the Vietnamese

Taylor_AHistoryOfTheVietnameseL’historien américain Keith W. Taylor vient de publier son imposante histoire des Vietnamiens considérée sur la longue durée. Cette nouvelle publication de près de 700 pages d’un des plus grand spécialiste du Viêt-Nam se présente déjà comme une référence incontournable des Vietnamese Studies. L’ouvrage organisé chronologiquement s’articule autour de 13 chapitres revisitant le Viêt-Nam et plus particulièrement les Vietnamiens qui ont façonné ce pays des origines à nos jours. Le premier chapitre pose le contexte du Viêt-Nam pré-impérial jusqu’à l’avènement de l’indépendance vis-à-vis des Han (pp. 14-50). Le second chapitre s’intéresse à la dynastie des Ly (pp. 51-107) ; le troisième à celle des Tran (pp. 108-164) ; le quatrième à celle des Lê (pp. 165-223).

On quitte l’histoire des trois grandes dynasties vietnamiennes (près d’un tiers de l’ouvrage) pour se plonger à partir du cinquième chapitre dans le chaos des guerres régionales (pp. 224-257) et internes entre le nord et le sud au XVIIème siècle (pp. 258-318). Le chapitre sept se focalise sur le Viêt-Nam divisé des seigneurs Trinh et Nguyen pour en souligner les divergences (pp. 319-364). La guerre civile qui mène à l’avènement des Tay Son reprend au chapitre 8 (pp. 365-397). Le chapitre 9 est consacré à la dernière grande dynastie vietnamienne des Nguyen jusqu’à son déclin au contact de l’Occident (pp. 398-445). Cet ensemble dédié à la guerre régionale puis interne aux Vietnamiens forme le second tiers de l’ouvrage.

Mais les Vietnamiens n’en n’ont pas fini avec la guerre. Celle-ci se prolonge avec le chapitre 10 consacré à la conquête française (pp. 446-483) puis l’auteur décrypte dans le chapitre suivant les nouvelles relations et interactions avec le colonisateur (pp. 484-523). La guerre toujours, revient en force au chapitre 12 (pp. 524-560) englobant l’Indochine dans une nouvelle configuration avec la France. Le dernier chapitre expose la situation au sortir de la guerre d’Indochine, du Viêt-Nam divisé à la réunification par la guerre. Enfin, l’auteur clot son étude par une rétrospective (pp. 620-626, et non une conclusion insiste Taylor) qui permet à l’auteur de replacer les Vietnamiens dans une longue durée en considérant l’importance de la matrice chinoise dans la construction de l’espace et de la mentalité de ce peuple aux composantes si diverses. De ce fait, il interroge l’unité du peuple vietnamien en soulignant les contrastes et différences ethniques, culturelles ou religieuses qui habitent ce peuple. Troisième point, il démontre la réelle difficulté qui existe alors dès que l’on veut expliciter ce qu’est un Vietnamien (Being Vietnamese has many forms) autrement que par la langue ou par l’espace particulier que ce peuple occupe sur la planète (p. 626). Enfin, note qui peut se lire comme touche d’optimisme, cette pluralité intrinsèque du Viêt-Nam, à la fois faiblesse et force, pourraient multiplier les possibilités à l’avenir (Being Vietnamese offers many options). L’ouvrage (sans notes de bas de page) se termine par un essai bibliographique conséquent (pp. 627-643) qui balaye par chapitres les sources principales qui ont nourri la réflexion de l’auteur et qui fait office de références bibliographiques. Plusieurs annexes (figures, tables, cartes) et un index mettent un point final à cette ambitieuse synthèse rapidement présentée ici.

FG, 25/06/2013

[Présentation de l’éditeur ci-dessous]

The history of Vietnam prior to the nineteenth century is rarely examined in any detail. In this groundbreaking work, K. W. Taylor takes up this challenge, addressing a wide array of topics from the earliest times to the present day – including language, literature, religion and warfare – and themes – including Sino-Vietnamese relations, the interactions of the peoples of different regions within the country, and the various forms of government adopted by the Vietnamese throughout their history. A History of the Vietnamese is based on primary source materials, combining a comprehensive narrative with an analysis which endeavors to see the Vietnamese past through the eyes of those who lived it. Taylor questions long-standing stereotypes and clichés about Vietnam, drawing attention to sharp discontinuities in Vietnam’s past. Fluently written and accessible to all readers, this highly original contribution to the study of Southeast Asia is a landmark text for all students and scholars of Vietnam.

Réf. Keith W. Taylor, A History of the Vietnamese, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013, 696 p.

Keith W. Taylor is a professor in the Department of Asian Studies at Cornell University. His career began in the U.S. army, where he was deployed in the US-Vietnam War. He has now been researching Vietnam for nearly forty years, and his work has made a fundamental contribution to the field.

Source : Cambridge University Press