What do we think of when we think of Vietnam? For many, Vietnam was and remains a war that haunts veterans, families, and politicians. But to think only of the “Vietnam War” overlooks a country and its story. In fact, many Vietnamese wonder why Americans are so preoccupied with the “American War”!
Our class explores modern Vietnam in order to situate the American War in broader spatial settings and longer historical contexts. Vietnam’s landscapes range from forests, over mountains, through fields, and downstream to river deltas. Vietnamese lives move from village to city, meander through cafes and rice paddies, cross oceans and land again. Our journey begins with rebellion, royal unification and collapse, winds through colonialism and nationalist struggles, pauses in the Cold War, and ends with ongoing reforms.
This seminar aims to introduce a fascinating place rich in history and to animate a geographic imagination students can take anywhere. Through forays to the university library and media center, we learn how to locate and appreciate fact and fiction, primary and secondary sources, text and picture, film and map. Through reading and writing exercises as well as class viewings and discussions, students encounter new points of view, engage scholarly debates, and develop informed perspectives.