ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY Pre/Early Modern Vietnam (Keith Taylor, Liam Kelley, Alexander Woodside, Li Tana, Choi Byung Wook, George Dutton)

Vietnamese Maps from Whitmore's "Cartography in Vietnam"

Below are my summary notes of part 1 of my qualifying exams list with Professor Peter Zinoman on Pre/Early Modern Vietnamese history.

  1. Pre/Early Modern
  2. Colonial
  3. Indochina Wars



Historiographical chronology/ topical order


  1. Taylor, Keith Weller “Surface Orientations in Vietnam: Beyond Histories of Nation and Region.” The Journal of Asian Studies 57, no. 4 (November 1, 1998): 949–78. + (shelf)
    1. Taylor challenges histories of oriented around nation and “Vietnameseness.” Taylor argues that histories are episodic rather than evolutionary, and function as surfaces upon material and cultural exchanges of which they are formed. He notes how South Vietnam, Nam Bộ has been seen as “less Vietnamese” due to contemporary definitions of Vietnameseness based on the North as the beacon of national origin and authenticity. Using the examples of six episodes of military conflict: the conquest of Lê Lợi (early 15th), Lê-Mạc ứa (16th), Trịnh-Nguyễn ứa (17th), Tây Sơn wars (18th), conquests of Nguyễn Ánh Gia Long (turn of 19th), Frenqu conquest (late 19th). Taylor calls scholars to orient histories towards a time and terrain and to be wary of connecting history with a linear assumption of change over time. In other words, Taylor encourages regional, temporally situated (of Trần Northern Coast, of Hội An and Quảng Nam as a fusion zone, of Nam Bo) studies rather than attempts to trace the entirety of the modern construct of the Vietnamese nation throughout history.

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Q. When does the ‘modern’ begin in Vietnamese history? A Historiography Essay (Alexander Woodside, George Dutton, Benedict Anderson, David Marr, Charles Keith)

Below is a historiographical paper that I wrote for Professor Peter Zinoman’s seminar on Southeast Asian Historiography in Fall 2015.

Modernity and the Modern Era in Histories of Vietnam: A Historiography Essay



When does the ‘modern era’ begin in Vietnamese history? How does it compare to other eras in Vietnamese history? What are the characteristics of Vietnamese modernity? The question of ‘the modern’ consumes debates in colonial and post-colonial studies, and is often entrenched within debates regarding the nation state and Western imperialism. While the question of modernity and the modern era has been intensely debated in East Asia and South Asia, critical studies of modernity still remain limited in Southeast Asia and Vietnam.[1] In this essay, I will explore the question of the modern era in Vietnamese history and situate this within Dipesh Charkabarty’s post-colonial critiques of studies on modernity. I demonstrate that Vietnam scholars approach the topic of the modern era and modernity in three different ways: first, the modern era is characterized by political integration, centralization, and bureaucratic systems of rule; second, the modern era is characterized by ‘modern’ forms of bureaucratic governance, technologies, and consumerism often ushered in by Western colonial influences; or third, the modern era is tied to the modern nation-state. To frame this another way, Vietnam scholars have located the beginning of the modern era within institutions of centralization and bureaucracy from the fifteenth century to nineteenth century, in colonial capitalism and Western ideologies of the 1886 to 1945 French colonial period, or in the debates regarding the Vietnamese modern nation-state and nationalism in the twentieth century.

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ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY & KEY QUESTIONS: Southeast Asia Colonialism & Modernity

Questions and Themes: A few notes and text-based responses to themes on the list Colonialism & Modernity in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia

Q. What is Colonialism? What are its instruments?
Anderson, Benedict R. O’G. “Studies of the Thai State: The State of Thai Studies.” In The Study of Thailand, edited by Eliezer B. Ayal. Southeast Asia Program. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1978.
Thongchai Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994.
     The normative understanding of colonialism is the dominance of a territory and people by a foreign force. This could manifest in the direct or indirect control of the political administration, extraction of economic resources and use of an indigenous labor force, and hegemonic influence of culture through education, language, and ethnic stratification. The results of colonialism can be social (plural society, fragmentation or hierarchy of ethnic groups), economic (vulnerability to foreign markets, trade monopolies, and dependency on foreign capital, and political (creation of a new layer of intermediary administrators, displacement of indigenous forms of governance and local authority).

Edward Said, Orientalism, and Caste: The Development of a Discourse and Field of Study


Below is a working paper I wrote for Professor Janaki Bakhle’s class on Caste, Culture, Religion–The Anthro-History of South Asia. I review and examine Edward Said’s seminal work Orientalism and the development of studies on caste in South Asia.

Since its publication in 1978, Edward Said’s Orientalism has developed to be the leading canonical text for cultural studies, critical post-modern and post-colonial studies, and studies of the Middle East and Islam.[1] In Orientalism, Edward Said develops a two-part argument: Since the late sixteenth century European writers, scholars, and scientists produced an idea and ‘imaginative geography’ of the ‘Orient’ (the East) as strange, exotic, dangerous and putatively opposite to the civilizational superiority of the ‘Occident’ (the West). Over time, this discourse of the ‘orient’ manifested in institutions, imagery, scholarship, and colonial styles into the formal academic discipline of Orientalism with a set of epistemologies, rational justifications, and scientific explanations that perpetuate a binary between the West and the East. Said argues that since the late eighteenth century, there has been a steady interchange between the imaginative meanings of the Orient and the academic tradition of ‘orientalism’. Examining orientalism as a discourse, Said demonstrates how Europeans have managed, produced, and invented the Orient and the Occident.

This essay examines the historiography of Indian caste through the two-part argument in Said’s Orientalism. Examining scholarship on caste from early Portuguese missionary reports to studies of colonialism and caste, I will consider both how European scholars represent, imagine, and understand Indian caste and also how this body of Oriental knowledge informed colonial understandings of caste. This essay is divided into three parts. The first part examines Edward Said’s Orientalism, the core arguments and methods, and the lasting effects on post-colonial and cultural studies. The second and main part of this essay analyzes the historiographical trends in studies of caste in the early writing of Abbé Dubois, Louis Dumont, Émile Durkheim, and Max Weber. The concluding part considers the more contemporary writing on caste and colonialism by Bernard Cohn and Nicholas Dirks. I focus on the historiographical shift in studies of India marked by Nicholas Dirks’ Castes of Mind, which called into question the implications of British colonial epistemologies on scholarship of Indian caste. Through this historiography I seek to trace the contours, continuities, and ruptures within the discourse on Indian caste.

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Q. How Confucian is/was Vietnam? Woodside, Kelley, and Cooke

Woodside, Alexander. 1971. Vietnam and the Chinese Model: A Comparative Study of Vietnamese and Chinese Government in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Alexander Woodside examines how Confucian institutions were adopted and adapted by 19th century Nguyen Vietnam. Woodside then catalogs and compares the institutions in Vietnam and China and documents the reasons why Vietnam does not exactly replicate Chinese and Confucian characteristics. The five chapters examine themes of acculturation, civil administration, court bureaucrats and provincial administration, and education and exams. Among the tremendous details of  bureaucratic, administrative, and educational comparisons between Vietnam and China, Woodside demonstrates how the local variants of Confucian systems in Vietnam. He concludes that these differences were due to the problem of scale and relative size of Vietnam to China (too many administrative units for too small a space), the cultural diversity and distance between bureaucrats and peasants, and the simplification and translation of Confucian bureaucracy as a coherent system. ( “VN regional differentiation 1)variety of environments, agriculture, and settlement 2)little cultural standardization at village level, varied village traditions 3) 16th-19th century N v. C S different political units 4) movement south and diff backgrounds” )Woodside characterizes these aspects into the abstract themes of 1) pattern saturation, 2) cultural parallelisms (such as dual monarchy of hoang de and vua), 3) environmental-institutional tensions, and 4) divergences in social structure and resources.

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Questions & Debates in the History of Statistics, Counting, and Quantification


A few questions on the history of statistics and quantification from my Qualifying Exams list on History of Knowledge Systems.

Examiner: Cathryn Carson

Second Field: History of Knowledge Systems

  1. History of Information, Enlightenment Institutions, ‘Information Ages’
  2. History of Information, Documentation, Catalogs, Libraries/Archives
  3. History of Statistics, Quantification, and Counting
  4. History of Data Science

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Annotated bibliography and the State of Southeast Asian Studies


Below is my annotated bibliography and key questions/themes for Part I of my list with Penelope Edwards on Southeast Asia. This part covered the state of the field of Southeast Asian studies.

  1. State of the field of Southeast Asian Studies
  2. Southeast Asia Colonialism and Modernity
  3. Southeast Asia Print Culture & History of the Book
  4. Southeast Asia Institutions: Museums & Libraries

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ARTICLE REVIEWS: Van Leur (1934), Smail (1961), Benda (1964)

By John Pinkerton – Pinkerton, J., A Modern Atlas,1818,

Van Leur, J.C., Excerpts from Indonesian Trade and Society: Essays in Asian Social and Economic History, (Holland/USA: Foris Publications, 1983) (originally written in 1934)

Smail, John R. W. “On the Possibility of an Autonomous History of Modern Southeast Asia.” Journal of Southeast Asian History 2, no. 2 (July 1, 1961): 72–102.

Benda, Harry J. “Democracy in Indonesia.” Journal of Asian Studies 23, no. 23 (May 1964): 449-456.

Euro-centric and Asia-Centric Historiographies as ‘False Antithesis”

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