In Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam, Edward Miller contributes a Vietnam-centric perspective to understand the making of 1950’s and 1960’s South Vietnam. Miller argues that the ‘politics of nation building’ informed the United States and Diem government’s ‘misalliance’ or diplomatic relationship from its beginning to demise. Using Vietnamese and American government documents, newspapers, and the MSUG archives, Miller examines the similarities and differences in US and Diem approaches to political centralization, economic development, counterinsurgency, and suppression of political threats. In this way, Miller demonstrates the complexity of nation building as both a discourse and practice that in fact encompassed debates on democracy, community, security, and social change. (325) Most importantly in his narrative, Miller centers Vietnamese agency and attempts to restore Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu as rational, calculated politicians.
Christopher Goscha, “A ‘Total War’ of Decolonization? Social Mobilization and State- Building in Communist Vietnam (1949-54),” War & Society, Vol. 31, No.2, (October 2012).
Christopher Goscha, “’Hell in a Very Small Place’ Cold War and Decolonisation in the Assault on the Vietnamese Body at Dien Bien Phu,” European Journal of East Asian Studies 9.2 (2010).
Christopher Goscha, “Colonial Hanoi and Saigon at War: Social Dynamics of the Viet Minh’s ‘Underground City,” 1945-1954,” War in History, 20(2) 2013.
Tuong Vu, “’To be Patriotic is to Build Socialism’: Communist Ideology in Vietnam’s Civil War,” Dynamics of the Cold War in Asia: Ideology, Identity and Culture edited by Tuong Vu and Wasana Wongsurawat (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
Peter Hansen, “Bac Di Cu: Catholic Refugees from the North of Vietnam, and Their Role in the Southern Republic, 1954-1959,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol. 4 no.3 (Fall, 2009).
Pierre Asselin, “The Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the 1954 Geneva Conference: a revisionist critique,” Cold War History vol. 11, no.2 (May, 2011).
“The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.”
– Susan Sontag, On Photography
Vietnam-Centrism as Historiographical Intervention
Beginning in the 1990s post Cold War and Vietnamese doi moi reforms, a sizeable body of scholarship on the Vietnam War has emerged with the goal of reintroducing the ‘Vietnamese’ back into the history of the war. As if part of the long shadow cast by the first ‘Southeast Asianists’ of J.C. Van Leur, D.G.E. Hall, and John Smail, the initiative to center the autonomous history of the region responds to the decades of Vietnam War histories defined by foreign relations and geopolitics. A similar historiographical challenge arises when we think about ‘Vietnam-centrism’: does this imply a shift in the relative importance of certain aspects in the narrative or a complete shift in viewpoint?