- my dissertation topic, “Creating the Library: Builders and Users of Vietnamese Libraries 1887-1986”
- my research findings in Hanoi thus far
- observations on libraries to library staff (rather than an academic history audience)
- and the most challenging part of all this, was that it was the first time that I presented anything in Vietnamese.
While writing about my data science course at the School of Information in the spring of 2016, I realized that I needed a long preface to explain why it was that a historian of Vietnam was using computational methods in their research. My long engagement with the world of ‘tech’ has become less of a dabbling and more of a blurry (exciting) amalgamation where all of my work in history, digital humanities, quantitative methods, data science, and information science have converged.
Quantifying Labor: an Introduction
Graduate school perpetuates a nebulous concept of ‘work.’ In the academy we are always working—from research to teaching, grant writing to meetings, emails to professional networking. But for me, this concept of always working weighs me down. It is easy for me to forget why I’m doing this whole academy thing, and what it is I’m actually doing at the moment.
Thus, for the past two years of graduate school, I have quantified my labor. It started as a personal challenge if I could maintain a ’40-hour work week’ and have some resemblance to work-life balance. But over the years, I found that quantifying my labor was both personally revelatory and an affirmation of my work. Much like the ‘quantified-self movement,’ I wanted to know what I do with my time, so that I could more efficiently use my time. But most importantly, quantifying my labor reminded me why I was pursuing a Ph.D. in Vietnamese history.
“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.
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.)
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)