Nation-Building in War: The Experience of Republican Vietnam, 1955-1975

Conference/Symposium | October 17 | 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Center for Southeast Asia Studies

This symposium is about the experience of nation-building in Republican Vietnam during 1949-1975. During this period, many Vietnamese sought a non-communist future for their country with the support of the United States. Over more than two decades, these men and women worked together toward that goal as much as fought against each other over differences in visions and policies. This took place within the broader context of large-scale military conflicts (the civil war between North Vietnam and South Vietnam and the Cold War between the superpowers).

Scholarship on the subject has focused mostly on that broader context of warfare while overlooking the project of nation-building carried out by South Vietnamese. In fact, much more took place in politics, society, culture, and the economy than in the military realm. Another bias of scholarship is its obsession with external intervention and its corresponding neglect of Vietnamese agency. While the U.S. played a crucial role in the viability of South Vietnam as an independent entity, South Vietnamese efforts have not been fully appreciated.

This symposium hopes to document and analyze such Vietnamese efforts in both military and other areas of nation-building by presenting panels of South Vietnamese officials, politicians, academics, and journalists who were active participants in historical developments, paired with panels of young scholars who will be asked to place the testimonies of participants in their contexts and to evaluate their significance.

Organizers: Peter Zinoman, Professor of History, UC Berkeley; Tuong Vu, Professor of Political Science, University of Oregon


Col. Trần Minh Công, Commandant of RVN Police Academy
Nguyễn Đức Cường, Minister of Trade and Industry
Kiều Chinh, Actress
Huỳnh Văn Lang, Director of Foreign Exchange Agency and secretary of the Can Lao Party’s Joint North-South branch, founder of Bách Khoa Review and the Association for the Development of Popular Culture
Phạm Kim Ngọc, Minister of Economy
Hoàng Đức Nhã, Presidential Advisor and Minister of Mass Mobilization and Open Arms
Nhã Ca, Writer
Dr. Nguyễn Hữu Phước, National Director of Elementary Teacher Training & In-Service Training, Ministry of Education
Lt. Col. Bùi Quyền, Deputy Commander, Third Airborne Brigade
Dr. Võ Kim Sơn, Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Saigon
Cao Văn Thân, Minister of Land Reform and Agricultural Development
Vũ Quốc Thúc, Central Bank Governor and Minister of Reconstruction and Development
Vũ Thanh Thủy, War Correspondent
Phạm Trần, Journalist
Lâm Lễ Trinh, Minister of Interior and Ambassador

Sean Fear, Postdoctoral Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy and International Security, Dartmouth College
Kevin Li, Ph.D. candidate, History, UC Berkeley
Ryan Nelson, Ph.D. candidate, History, UC Berkeley
Huong Nguyen, Ph.D. candidate, History, University of Washington
Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen, Associate Professor of Australian Studies, Monash University
Van Nguyen-Marshall, Associate Professor of History, Trent University (Canada)
John Schafer, Emeritus Professor of English, Humboldt State University
Simon Toner, Postdoctoral Fellow in Southeast Asian Studies, Columbia University
Nu-Anh Tran, Assistant Professor of History and Asian American Studies, University of Connecticut
Alex-Thai Dinh Vo, Ph.D. candidate, Cornell University
Tuong Vu, Professor of Political Science, University of Oregon
Peter Zinoman, Professor of History, UC Berkeley

 CA,, 510-642-3609

 CSEAS Vietnam Program UPDATE