Vietnamese Visual Texts

I am the principal investigator on “Vietnamese Visual Texts” which critically examines indigenous knowledge production within colonial visual texts. I am leading a team of students and scholars in the departments of computer science and art history to investigate the invisible authors of colonial texts through content analysis, visual analysis, virtual reality, text analysis, and materiality. Currently, we are examining a rare visual encyclopedia of Vietnamese crafts, cultural practices, and technologies commissioned in 1909 by a French colonial administrator and a team of unnamed Vietnamese contributors (draftsmen, researchers, annotators, translators, and woodblock printers). The encyclopedia includes visual sketches of Vietnamese crafts and practices as well as annotations in both French and Vietnamese (in chữ nôm, a logographic Chinese writing system of Vietnamese language).

Through my close analysis of descriptive patterns in language, textual-visual depiction, and aesthetic style (visual archetypes, emotion, modularity), I point to plurality of authorship, intended audiences, and the collaborative production of the text. 

I employ content analysis of the annotations and sketches in order to reveal patterns of visual and textual description and classification within colonial ethnographic knowledge. I coded based on gender, age, professions, and semantic representation of object, person, or action. Furthermore, I uncover the moments of descriptive differentiation between the 4,462 French annotations and 3,006 Vietnamese nôm annotations to explore the authorial contributions of the anonymous laborers involved in the production of the text. I contribute new findings on the collaborative, visible-invisible production of colonial knowledge and visual print media. I have integrated this primary source data into an innovative critical digital humanities and data analysis teaching module, “Print and Power.” An earlier version of this project was presented at the Digital Humanities Fair at UC Berkeley in 2015. The current results of this project have been presented at Brown University Cogut Institute for the Humanities in Fall 2020.

July-August 2020 Research Findings Report (Forthcoming)

Drawing from Technique of Printing (The French caption reads: “Woman rubbing a sheet of paper onto a printing plate” while the Nom captions read “Printing. Fourth Step: Take a sponge to rub the printing paper.

Archive of Project

Poster of Project – Presented at Digital Humanities Faire at UC Berkeley, 2015

Blog Post – Introduction to Primary Source and Historical Analysis, 2015