This article examines conflicts concerning French policy on the American phase of the Vietnam War between the French Left and Charles de Gaulle during the 1965 elections. The Left faced a dilemma on a matter of central foreign policy as it found it difficult to differentiate its position on the war from de Gaulle's public statements on it. Through an evaluation of press commentary, I demonstrate that in its attempt to set itself apart from de Gaulle, the French Left challenged not only his interpretation of the war in Vietnam but also his understanding of France and its role in the world, proffering a softer, cooperative conception in opposition to de Gaulle's push for a militant leadership status for France in the international community. The study shows the limits political parties face as part of protest movements, while also situating French debate over the Vietnam War squarely within the ongoing dialogue over French national identity.
The French Left, de Gaulle, and the Vietnam War in 1965
Bethany S. Keenan
A New Concept for Residents of Viengxay, Laos
Recently, small numbers of independent tourists and small groups have begun to visit the remote and poor region of Viengxay in northern Laos. This article is based on focus-group interviews and on-site observation in thirteen villages in Viengxay, intended to explore the perceptions and expectations of locals regarding their roles as hosts in this emerging tourism context. It discusses the ways in which locals are developing attitudes and practices of hospitality towards tourists. These practices are emerging under the influence of factors such as native cultural traditions, individual and communal expectations and attitudes towards tourism, as well as historical factors arising from the area's history of war and political isolation. Although locals intuitively treat tourists according to their society's 'traditional' treatment of guests, this treatment is also modified to reflect an appreciation that tourists are a specific type of guest for which the rules of hospitality may need to be reinterpreted. Locals' perceptions of tourists and behaviour in their relations with tourists are evolving as a result of growing contact between locals and tourists and the concomitantly changing expectations from and understanding of the tourism industry. This article articulates common themes for conceptualising the ways in which hospitality practices in the Viengxay villages are emerging from interaction and conflict of these various aspects.
A reflection on John Kerry's Viet Nam quagmire
The 'Viet Nam War' entered the 2004 US presidential election in a most uncanny fashion, sparking a surrogate discussion of the limits of present imperial ambition and doctrine. This essay explores the limitations and possibilities of this proxy discussion to facilitate an understanding of John Kerry's political unraveling, as well as the continuing political dilemmas facing the US left.
Re-Narrating the Political Life of a Laotian Subject
This essay considers the role of personal, affective history in shaping historiography, and more precisely, a post-colonial history of Laos. Relying on a variety of sources, official and family photographs, US diplomatic documents, telegrams and personal notes, and against the backdrop of multiple losses, this article problematizes the questions of biography and the complex links between the personal and the "historical" by narrating my father's professional trajectory over three decades as a civil servant and career diplomat. Pheng Norindr represented Laos at the 1962 Geneva Conference and became the Laotian envoy to the United Stated during the Vietnam War. His entanglement with French colonialism and Cold War politics offers a point of entry into a Laotian historiography that is critical of a monolithic Western history of Laos.
Markus Schlecker and Kirsten W. Endres
During the Vietnam War, unprecedented numbers of dead soldiers were buried in unmarked graves and remain missing today. Starting in the mid-1990s, the services of psychics came into high demand, prompting the establishment of a state-approved Center for Research into Human Capabilities that continues to offer grave-finding assistance for the general public. This article discusses the cases of two well-known female psychics. As the case studies demonstrate, such research programs have established a niche for psychics on the perimeters of the official discursive nexus of truth, science, and visuality. They also highlight the variability of social and semantic proc esses by which different psychics are positioned in relation to recognized distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate knowledge practices and truth claims.
Repetition as Failure and Success in Apocalypse Now
Andrew Michael Roberts and Peter Easingwood
The question posed by Francis Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now is a very Conradian one: what does this experience mean? Apart of Conrad’s achievement as a writer was to introduce epistemological and existential questions into narratives of adventure. In this way Conrad transformed the nineteenth-century masculine romance of exploration, conquest, war and heroism into a modernist form capable of raising profound philosophical and political issues. While Coppola’s film is not a version of Heart of Darkness so much as a radical reworking of Conrad’s novella in the context of the Vietnam War, Conrad’s text played a crucial part both in the initial idea of the film and in the problematic final stages of its production when the director, tormented by the inability to find a satisfactory ending, returned again and again to Conrad’s text. In this paper we want to suggest that the concern with the problem of meaning which Coppola derives from Conrad initially led the director astray, in a search for existential meaning in a situation where only a politicised account could be ethically responsive. Eventually, however, Conrad’s sense of meaning as above all problematic and elusive helped Coppola to introduce into his film a questioning of its own processes which rescued it from some of the simplistic or ideologically blind features of many Vietnam war films. In particular, it led the film to engage fruitfully if uncertainly with the issues raised by the very project of the representation of war: the complicity of the spectator, the problem of the aestheticisation of violence, the problem of communicability itself. In making this argument we draw on the miasma of inter-texts which surrounds Apocalypse Now like a Conradian ‘misty halo’: these include, not only Heart of Darkness itself, but Eleanor Coppola’s film Hearts of Darkness and her book Notes on the Making of Apocalypse Now, as well as Dispatches, the documentary narrative about Vietnam by Michael Herr, who wrote the voice-over narrative for Coppola’s film.
In The Armies of the Night (1968) and Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968/2008) Norman Mailer details the exploits of the anti-Vietnam war protestors and his role in the protests. With an ethnographer’s eye for detail and a novelist’s eye for imagery, he constructs a picture of youthful fear and exuberance, a totalitarian reaction to protest, and documents an America which he realises is slowing eating itself. In these nonfi ction novels, he places himself at the centre of events, interpreting the data through his own frazzled, drink-fuelled, mischievous self. This article utilises Pierre Bourdieu’s methodological framework of refl exive sociology to both critically analyse Mailer as an ethnographer and qualitative researcher and ask whether inquiry into social protest can be adequately conducted through the autobiographical gaze of a novelist. It is argued that by using such literary resources and techniques, we can, in the spirit of C. Wright Mills, move to a more public sociology where literary techniques are valued, rather than dismissed as unscientific.
Indochina played a pioneering role during the decolonization of the French empire, and the religious issue proved important to the process. Even to this day, state-church relations bear signs of this contentious and painful past. The historiography of the Indochina War, as well as that of the Vietnam War, clearly call attention to the activism of religious leaders and religious communities, especially Buddhists and Catholics, who fought for independence, peace, and the needs and rights of the Third World. And religion was put to the service of shaping public opinion both in Vietnam and internationally. Naturally, ideological convictions during the era of decolonialization account for the dominance of political analysis of this subject. But with the passage of time we can now develop a more sociological understanding of people's religious motivations and practices and the role they played in the conflict between communism and nationalism. The historian can also re-examine the secularization process in decolonized societies by analyzing, on the one hand, the supposed loss of ascendancy of religions in society and, on the other hand, the appearance of new religious movements that tended to adapt to modernity. This essay explores these politico-religious dynamics in the context of the decolonization of Vietnam.
Kerry D. Feldman and Lisa Henry
When engaged in doctoral research (1972) on urban squatter settlements in the Philippines, Feldman’s approach was guided by the pedagogy of Paulo Freire (2005[orig.1970]), which gratefully steered his behaviour away from the typical ‘Ugly American’ abroad in the world at the time (during the Vietnam War). Feldman became aware of the notions of ‘teacher-student’ and of ‘student-teacher’ primarily through his discussions with two Filipino doctors, Jess and Trini de la Paz (a husband and wife team), who organised a health education and training programme for volunteer participants from 12 squatter settlements in Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao. They invited him to serve as a social science consultant for their project. They explained that their approach to health education and training was grounded in, and would always adhere to, Freire’s insistence that oppressed people should be viewed as teachers for anyone engaging in their instruction or assistance, requiring that their teachers also become their students in understanding or assisting their lives.
An Ecological Critique of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (1990) and In The Lake of the Woods (1994)
When questioned by Larry McCaffery in an interview as to why his books were so firmly anchored in nature, Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien responded, ‘because life is anchored in these things’. The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s fifth book, is certainly no exception to this analysis. O’Brien’s book uncovers the multifarious dimensions to the sheer power and intensity of the bond between humankind and the natural world in the face of the brutal violence of the Vietnam war. It is this elemental relationship that I intend to examine with specific regard to the substantive influence of contemporary environmental theories and green ideas on O’Brien’s understanding of the value of the natural world. In order to examine the texts effectively, I will consider O’Brien’s work in chronological order. In doing so I hope to provide illustration of the continuation and development of the author’s environmental concerns within the framework of his most recent writings. I believe the author’s overarching concern with the intangibility of truth in these novels readily extends itself to his all-embracing manipulation of the symbolic landscape he presents to the reader.