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The Government of Mistrust

Illegibility and Bureaucratic Power in Socialist Vietnam

Ken MacLean

Focusing on the creation and misuse of government documents in Vietnam since the 1920s, The Government of Mistrust reveals how profoundly the dynamics of bureaucracy have affected Vietnamese efforts to build a socialist society. In examining the flurries of paperwork and directives that moved back and forth between high- and low-level officials, Ken MacLean underscores a paradox: in trying to gather accurate information about the realities of life in rural areas, and thus better govern from Hanoi, the Vietnamese central government employed strategies that actually made the state increasingly illegible to itself.
            MacLean exposes a falsified world existing largely on paper. As high-level officials attempted to execute centralized planning via decrees, procedures, questionnaires, and audits, low-level officials and peasants used their own strategies to solve local problems. To obtain hoped-for aid from the central government, locals overstated their needs and underreported the resources they actually possessed. Higher-ups attempted to re-establish centralized control and legibility by creating yet more bureaucratic procedures. Amidst the resulting mistrust and ambiguity, many low-level officials were able to engage in strategic action and tactical maneuvering that have shaped socialism in Vietnam in surprising ways.

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Hanoi's War

An International History of the War for Peace in Vietnam

Lien-Hang T. Nguyen

While most historians of the Vietnam War focus on the origins of U.S. involvement and the Americanization of the conflict, Lien-Hang T. Nguyen examines the international context in which North Vietnamese leaders pursued the war and American intervention ended. This riveting narrative takes the reader from the marshy swamps of the Mekong Delta to the bomb-saturated Red River Delta, from the corridors of power in Hanoi and Saigon to the Nixon White House, and from the peace negotiations in Paris to high-level meetings in Beijing and Moscow, all to reveal that peace never had a chance in Vietnam.
Hanoi's War renders transparent the internal workings of America's most elusive enemy during the Cold War and shows that the war fought during the peace negotiations was bloodier and much more wide ranging than it had been previously. Using never-before-seen archival materials from the Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as materials from other archives around the world, Nguyen explores the politics of war-making and peace-making not only from the North Vietnamese perspective but also from that of South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, China, and the United States, presenting a uniquely international portrait.

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Hard Interests, Soft Illusions

Southeast Asia and American Power

by Natasha Hamilton-Hart

In Hard Interests, Soft Illusions, Natasha Hamilton-Hart explores the belief held by foreign policy elites in much of Southeast Asia-Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam-that the United States is a relatively benign power. She argues that this belief is an important factor underpinning U.S. preeminence in the region, because beliefs inform specific foreign policy decisions and form the basis for broad orientations of alignment, opposition, or nonalignment. Such foundational beliefs, however, do not simply reflect objective facts and reasoning processes. Hamilton-Hart argues that they are driven by both interests-in this case the political and economic interests of ruling groups in Southeast Asia-and illusions.

Hamilton-Hart shows how the information landscape and standards of professional expertise within the foreign policy communities of Southeast Asia shape beliefs about the United States. These opinions frequently rest on deeply biased understandings of national history that dominate perceptions of the past and underlie strategic assessments of the present and future. Members of the foreign policy community rarely engage in probabilistic reasoning or effortful knowledge-testing strategies. This does not mean, she emphasizes, that the beliefs are insincere or merely instrumental rationalizations. Rather, cognitive and affective biases in the ways humans access and use information mean that interests influence beliefs; how they do so depends on available information, the social organization and practices of a professional sphere, and prevailing standards for generating knowledge.

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Harvests, Feasts, and Graves

Postcultural Consciousness in Contemporary Papua New Guinea

Ryan Schram

Ryan Schram explores the experiences of living in intercultural and historical conjunctures among Auhelawa people of Papua New Guinea in Harvests, Feasts, and Graves. In this ethnographic investigation, Schram ponders how Auhelawa question the meaning of social forms and through this questioning seek paths to establish a new sense of their collective self.

Harvests, Feasts, and Graves describes the ways in which Auhelawa people, and by extension many others, produce knowledge of themselves as historical subjects in the aftermath of diverse and incomplete encounters with Christianity, capitalism, and Western values. Using the contemporary setting of Papua New Guinea, Schram presents a new take on essential topics and foundational questions of social and cultural anthropology.

If, as Marx writes, "the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living," Harvests, Feasts, and Graves asks: Which history weighs the most? And how does the weight of history become salient as a ground for subjective consciousness? Taking cues from postcolonial theory and indigenous studies, Schram rethinks the "ontological turn" in anthropology and develops a new way to think about the nature of historical consciousness.

Rather than seeing the present as either tragedy or farce, Schram argues that contemporary historical consciousness is produced through reflexive sociality. Like all societies, Auhelawa is located in an intercultural conjuncture, yet their contemporary life is not a story of worlds colliding, but a shattered mirror in which multiple Auhelawa subjectivities are possible.

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Hating Empire Properly

The Two Indies and the Limits of Enlightenment Anticolonialism

Sunil M. Agnani

In Hating Empire Properly, Sunil Agnani produces a novel attempt to think the eighteenth-century imagination of the West and East Indies together, arguing that this is how contemporary thinkers Edmund Burke and Denis Diderot actually viewed them. This concern with multiple geographical spaces is revealed to be a largely unacknowledged part of the matrix of Enlightenment thought in which eighteenth-century European and American self-conceptions evolved. By focusing on colonial spaces of the Enlightenment, especially India and Haiti, he demonstrates how Burke's fearful view of the French Revolution-the defining event of modernity-was shaped by prior reflection on these other domains. Exploring with sympathy the angry outbursts against injustice in the writings of Diderot, he nonetheless challenges recent understandings of him as a univocal critic of empire by showing the persistence of a fantasy of consensual colonialism in his thought. By looking at the impasses and limits in the thought of both radical and conservative writers, Agnani asks what it means to critique empire "properly." Drawing his method from Theodor Adorno's quip that "one must have tradition in oneself, in order to hate it properly," he proposes a critical inhabiting of dominant forms of reason as a way forward for the critique of both empire and Enlightenment.Thus, this volume makes important contributions to political theory, history, literary studies, American studies, and postcolonial studies.

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Hell in An Loc

The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Viet Nam

Lam Quang Thi

In 1972 a North Vietnamese offensive of more than 30,000 men and 100 tanks smashed into South Vietnam and raced to capture Saigon. All that stood in their way was a small band of 6,800 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers and militiamen, and a handful of American advisors with U.S. air support, guarding An Loc, a town sixty miles north of Saigon and on the main highway to it. This depleted army, outnumbered and outgunned, stood its ground and fought to the end and succeeded. Against all expectations, the ARVN beat back furious assaults from three North Vietnamese divisions, supported by artillery and armored regiments, during three months of savage fighting. This victory was largely unreported in the U.S. media, which had effectively lost interest in the war after the disengagement of most U.S. forces. Thi believes that it is time to set the record straight. Without denying the tremendous contribution of the U.S. advisors and pilots, this book is written primarily to tell the South Vietnamese side of the story and, more importantly, to render justice to the South Vietnamese soldier.

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Heroes and Revolution in Vietnam, 1948-1964

Benoît de Tréglodé

On the eve of the war against the South Vietnamese regime in 1964, the communist party strove to carve out a new productivist and political elite from the towns and villages of the country. According to a categorization of patriotic exemplarity devised by Ho Chi Minh, "avant-garde workers", "exemplary soldiers" and "new heroes" would fill the ranks of a "new model society", one in which political virtue would serve as the principle to mobilize the masses. This study present and analyzes the process by which "new heroes" were invented. It first develops a picture of what constituted heroes in Vietnamese tradition and history, and then shows how the new model, effectively a Sino-Soviet import, was imposed, only to be slowly distorted by its own cultural rationale and by specific objectives. Far from being a transitory phenomenon, this model has contributed for more than half a century to the reconstruction of the national imagination and the development of a new collective, patriotic and communist memory in Vietnam.

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Historians & Their Discipline

The Call of Southeast Asian History

Nicholas Tarling

Intended both for students and scholars, this book of personal essays is the first by a group of historians as researchers, writers and teachers specializing in Southeast Asia. The group has not, to our knowledge, as a collective unit at least found any biographers before. They consist of a number of "veterans" who have been invited by Professor Nicholas Tarling to comment on the way they got into Southeast Asian history, its development over the past decades and its future. As result, the essays mainly semi-autobiographical innature, are not only illuminating, but also revel many "trade secrets", why they chose their particular area of specialization, andhow they went on to pusue their research interests, academic careers and writings on their chosen subjects. This is companion volume to New Perspectives and Research on Malaysian History, which is a collection of essays on Malaysian historiography, and is also published by MBRAS to coincide with the celebration of its 130th anniversary in August 2007.

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The Historical Construction of Southeast Asian Studies

Korea and Beyond

edited by Park Seung Woo and Victor T King

At a time when Southeast Asian Studies is declining in North America and Europe, this book serves to remind us of the fresh, constructive and encouraging view of the field from Asia. On behalf of Taiwan’s Southeast Asian research community, I sincerely congratulate Professors Park and King for making such a great and timely contribution to the making of Southeast Asian Studies in Asia. Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao, Director of Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, and former President of Taiwan Association of Southeast Asian Studies "The Historical Construction of Southeast Asian Studies: Korea and Beyond is an important and long-overdue step in the task of bringing Southeast Asian Studies to where it rightfully belongs - the Asian region. At the same time, it avoids being narrowly regionalistic and instead views Southeast Asia as an 'open system' that transcends 'national units' or 'fixed territorial categories' and welcomes the contributions of both Asian and non-Asian scholars in crafting a fresh post-colonial approach to the study of the region’s societies and peoples." - Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Professor of Asian Studies, University of the Philippines-Diliman “An insightful and systemic analysis of the intriguing trajectories, evolving themes, and multi-lingual scholarship of Southeast Asian Studies in Asia and beyond, this book serves as an important foundation in setting future research agendas as well as for closer global collaborations in knowledge production in Asian Studies.” -Liu Hong, Tan Kah Kee Professor and Chair, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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Histories of Health in Southeast Asia

Perspectives on the Long Twentieth Century

Edited by Tim Harper and Sunil S. Amrith

Health patterns in Southeast Asia have changed profoundly over the past century. In that period, epidemic and chronic diseases, environmental transformations, and international health institutions have created new connections within the region and the increased interdependence of Southeast Asia with China and India. In this volume leading scholars provide a new approach to the history of health in Southeast Asia. Framed by a series of synoptic pieces on the "Landscapes of Health" in Southeast Asia in 1914, 1950, and 2014 the essays interweave local, national, and regional perspectives. They range from studies of long-term processes such as changing epidemics, mortality and aging, and environmental history to detailed accounts of particular episodes: the global cholera epidemic and the hajj, the influenza epidemic of 1918, WWII, and natural disasters. The writers also examine state policy on healthcare and the influence of organizations, from NGOs such as the China Medical Board and the Rockefeller Foundation to grassroots organizations in Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

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