History of Classification and Information Reading List

Genealogical distribution of the arts and sciences’ by Chrétien Frederic Guillaume Roth from Encyclopédie (1780) by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert

For your summer reading pleasure and in the context of the ever rising importance of critically thinking through classification, here is my complete qualifying exam list on HISTORY OF CLASSIFICATION AND INFORMATION.

Cindy Nguyen
Examiner: Cathryn Carson
Second Field: History of Knowledge Systems

History of Classification and Information

1. STS & Memory Practices: Classification, Documentation, Catalogs, Libraries, Archives
2. History of Information, Information Age, Enlightenment Institutions
3. History of statistics: governance and discipline
4. Data Science: theory, explanation; experts

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BOOK REVIEW Bowker & Star Sorting Things out: Classification and Its Consequences

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Bowker, Geoffrey C., and Susan Leigh Star. Sorting Things out: Classification and Its Consequences. Inside Technology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1999.

“To classify is human”

Geoffrey Bowker and Susan Leigh Star undertake the challenging and encompassing topic of ‘classification’ in Classification and Its Consequences. The authors argue the that 1) classification is a ubiquitous human activity (“human artifacts”) and 2) the consequences of classificatory architecture influence and ‘torque’ human lives politically, socially, linguistically, and cognitively. The authors provide investigate infrastructure of  classification schemes in the medical and social realm such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the Nursing Intervention Classification (NIC), and racial classification in South Africa.

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BOOK REVIEW Hue-Tam Ho Tai’s Millenarianism and Peasant Politics in Vietnam (1983)



Hue-Tam Ho Tai. Millenarianism and Peasant Politics in Vietnam. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Hue-Tam Ho Tai examines the history of the millenarian tradition Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương (Strange Fragrance from the Precious Mountain)—a collection of Sino-Vietnamese folk religion (mystical currents of Zen, White Lotus, popular Taoism) in the spiritually and ethnically diverse Western Nam Bo Khmer-Viet frontier in 1849 (appearance of Buddha Master) to 1975 (Communist takeover of the South).  Ho Tai makes two primary arguments: 1) The foundation of the Hoa Hao sect by Huynh Phu So in 1939 was the modern embodiment and adaptation of the Bửu Sơn Kỳ Hương to profound change in the colonial period. 2) The Hoa Hao was a competing ideology of change to Communist revolution and traces its progression and limitations as a movement. (In the 1940s, the Hoa Hao united the sects of the western Delta into a theocratic state, and offered itself as an institutional, military, alternative society to Vietminh communist power.)

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ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Colonial Studies: Power and Knowledge

Below is an annotated bibliography of part of my reading list with Professor Janaki Bakhle, titled ‘Colonial Studies: Power and Knowledge.” This reading list focuses on agents and institutions of colonial knowledge and is framed by the following commentary:

“Colonial conquest was not just the result of the power of superior arms, military organization, political power, or economic wealth—as important as these things were. Colonialism was made possible, and then sustained and strengthened, as much by cultural technologies of rule as it was by the more obvious and brutal modes of conquest that first established power on foreign shores. The cu1tural effects of colonialism have too often been ignored or displaced into the inevitable logic of modernization and world capitalism; but more than this, it has not been sufficiently recognized that colonialism was itself a cultural project of control. Colonial knowledge both enabled conquest and was produced by it; in certain important ways, knowledge was what colonialism was all about.”

Nicholas Dirks forward to Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge (1996)

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BOOK REVIEW Charles Keith’s Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation (2012)

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Charles Keith, Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation University of California Press, 2012.

Charles Keith sheds light upon the role of the Vietnamese Catholic Church in the rise of Vietnamese nationalism and a ‘modern’ identity. As the first comprehensive, English language study of the twentieth century Catholic Church in Vietnam, Keith rejects the current historiography of Vietnamese Catholics as simply supporters of French colonialism and in opposition to Vietnamese nationalism. Instead, Keith instills a sense of political and cultural agency for Vietnamese Catholics and indigenous religious organizations to critique the French colonial state. Keith demonstrates how a ‘national’ Catholic Church emerged in Vietnam after World War I through print culture and connection with global Catholicism. Keith reveals how the Vietnamese Catholic Church strategically identified with global Catholic movements and Vatican political stances on national self-identity and human dignity. Through this relationship with Rome and missionary political structures, Vietnamese Catholics were able to reposition themselves as a modern political and religious institution.

Keith also demonstrates how Vietnamese Catholics contributed to a new, ‘modern’ political consciousness and nationalism. In other parts of Catholic Vietnam, Keith describes Catholic political consciousness as tied to the rise of a modern national culture. Writers contrasted the often ambiguous and all encompassing adjective ‘modern’ with ‘traditional,’ as a way to make social and cultural critiques. Keith demonstrates how the formation of the national Vietnamese Catholic Church coincided with debates on modernity and political identities, or within a phenomenon Keith terms as ‘religious modernity.’

BOOK REVIEW: David Marr’s Generational Arguments in Vietnamese Anticolonialism (1971) and Vietnamese Tradition on Trial 1920-1945 (1981)

Author Background

David G. Marr was born in 1937 and in his lifetime completed service in the marine corps, intelligence agency, and Vietnam (1962). He completed his MA and Ph.D. in History at UC Berkeley (1968) under the guidance of Chinese historian Joseph Levenson. Marr also contributed to Vietnam Today and the Indochina Resource center, an activist resource center. Marr currently is an emeritus Professor at the College of Asia and the Pacific at Australian National University. He is the author of multiple important monographs and articles for the field of Vietnamese hsitory:

Vietnamese Anticolonialism 1885-1925, University of California Press, 1971

Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945, University of California Press, 1981.

Vietnam. World Bibliographical Series, vol.147, Clio Press, 1992.

Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power, University of California Press, 1995.

Vietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945–1946) University of California Press, 2013

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BOOK REVIEW Hue-Tam Ho Tai’s Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (1992)

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Hue-Tam Ho Tai. Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Hue-Tam Ho Tai argues that the 1920’s and 1930’s witnessed the formation of a particular strain of reaction to the colonial status quo. Hue-Tam coins the term Vietnamese ‘radicalism’ defined as “an essentially non-ideological current of reaction, both to colonial rule and to native accommodation to that rule, the chief characteristics of which were iconoclasm and the marriage of the personal and the political.” Characterizing radicalism as an ‘individualist’ phase of revolution, Hue-Tam thus connects the national struggle for independence with an individual’s anarchical emancipation from tradition and social institutions. Described as the yearning for new personal and collective forms of expression, radicalism was the “political mood” and also a form of cultural politics of the 1920’s and 1930’s generation of students. Hue-Tam locates the emergence of radicalism among a specific generation of Vietnamese intellectuals—mostly urban, French or French colonial educated, youth who came of age in the political climate of the 1920’s and expressed themselves through student strikes, associations, and newspapers.

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BOOK REVIEW Peter Zinoman’s Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vũ Trọng Phụng (2013)

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Zinoman, Peter. Vietnamese Colonial Republican: The Political Vision of Vũ Trọng Phụng. University of California Press, 2013

Using never before translated writings, literary sources, and family archives, Peter Zinoman meticulously traces life and works of Vu Trong Phung (1912-1939), one of Vietnam’s most prolific and controversial modernist writers of the twentieth century. Through the intellectual history of Vu Trong Phung, Zinoman reveals the dynamics of intellectual life and publication in late colonial society as well as the cultural politics of post-colonial censorship through Phung’s enduring reputation. Zinoman argues that Phung was a ‘late colonial republican’—a term coined by Zinoman to characterize Phung’s inchoate combination of anti-communism, anti-capitalism, and anti-colonialism in his writings, a commitment to free speech and rule of law, and the experience of localized republican politics in colonial Vietnam. Anticommuism republicanism denounced the totalitarianism of Leninism and Stalinism as antidemocratic. Zinoman situates Phung’s ‘republicanism’ within the context of Third Republic French policies in the colonies (by Governor General Albert Sarraut, Alexander Varenne, and Jules Brevie) to develop Franco-Vietnamese schools, economic development, and a policy of political association for Vietnamese gradual independence. Yet, Zinoman also argues that the ‘republican’ rhetoric did not manifest into political action and social change in colonial Vietnam.

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BOOK REVIEW Huynh Kim Khanh’s Vietnamese Communism 1925-1945 (1982)


Huynh Kim Khanh. Vietnamese Communism 1925-1945. Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1982.

Huynh Kim Khanh traces the development of the Indochinese Communist Party 1925-1945 and assesses the reasons for communism’s success in 1945. Khanh argues that the history of the Vietnamese communist movement was the successful grafting of Leninist proletarian internationalism onto anti-imperialist Vietnamese patriotism. This narrative of Vietnamese Communism emphasizes the local and global aspects of the Vietnamese Communists movement hinging on Vietnamese patriotism and revolutionary internationalism. (For example, Khanh demonstrates how Thanh Nien modernized the patriotic idea of cách mệnh, the rebellion against the mandate and political authority, to a modern and Marxist-Leninist idea of cách mạng, revolution.) Rather than a genuine class struggle, Khanh argues that the communist movement was a fusion of anti-colonial, anti-fedual movements by a colonized and predominantly agrarian society. Khanh argues that key to this process were the roles of the colonial situation, deep seated Vietnamese patriotism across elite-peasantry and geographic lines, and an unshakable commitment to international communism by revolutionaries. Thus Khanh uses the lens of ‘patriotism’ (an inward, kinship oriented sentiment shared by Vietnamese of all social classes) rather than nationalism, a political expression he characterizes as elite driven and based on a nation’s perceived legitimate rights.

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