Vietnam Studies at UCR

By My Nguyen, Student Intern of CHASS College of Computing

University of California, Riverside has more Vietnam Studies research faculty than any other university in the United States (Australia National University, Canberra is the only other campus outside of Vietnam that has the equivalent number). Traditionally, Vietnam Studies was a field dominated by Cold War-era historians, political scientists and others focused primarily on political issues during the Vietnam War.  With a new generation of Vietnamese Americans in American universities and Vietnam’s economic renaissance, Vietnam Studies has opened up a much broader area of study to researchers including, anthropologists, environmental historians, cultural critics, environmental economists, human rights researchers, and gender and sexuality specialists. UCR’s young faculty, its substantial language program in Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian languages, its focus on the arts, humanities, and social sciences (rather than military history and socialist economies) by way of SEATRIP, and a keen interest in diasporic linkages, distinguishes it not only in the UC system, but also nationally.

SEATRIP stands for Southeast Asia: Text, Rituals, and Performance. According to Lan Duong, Assistant Professor of Women Studies and Media and Cultural Studies, SEATRIP a program that looks at Southeast Asia through a cultural lens of literature, religion, and performance, which include visual art, theatre and dance.  Since the Cold War, Southeast Asia has been viewed by American universities through a historical lens of the U.S. “There is a cultural component in the program that is very appealing to me,” Duong said.

Professor Duong’s research includes postwar cultural productions of the Vietnamese and Vietnamese Diaspora.  She interprets films and literature through the themes of nationalism, betrayal, and collaboration against the historical background of Vietnam, France, and the U.S. She says she is especially interested in the representation of gender and sexuality within the works.

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Christine Schwenkel’s research focuses on the intersections of transnationalism, visual culture and historical memory in Vietnam. According to Professor Schwenkel, her research traces the transnational flows of images of the U.S./Vietnam War and shifts in the aesthetics of memory at Vietnamese museums, war monuments, art and photography exhibits, and tourist sites.

Mariam Lam, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature/Vietnamese, specializes in Southeast Asian literature and visual cultures, postcolonial criticism, diasporic expressive forms, gender and sexuality, ethnic studies, translation, tourism, and community politics.  One of her on-going projects includes an analysis of the development of Southeast Asian and Southeast Asian American studies in the U.S. academy, and of the politics of transnational scholarship.

David Biggs, Assistant Professor of History, is currently doing his research on the Mekong Delta, located in the southern-most region of Vietnam from, where half the rice in the country is produced. His research focuses on the relativity of the region’s environmental past, including studies of the Vietnam War’s impact on the environment and development since the war’s end in 1975. He will also be heading a trip with UCR Summer Sessions to the ancient imperial capital in Hue, where he will be teaching a course on the Vietnam War (History 184) that will be visiting many key historical sites. According to Professor Duong, students will have the opportunity to “immerse themselves within the language, culture and history of Vietnam”, as well as getting hands-on experience within and outside of the classroom. “Besides learning a new language, which I find is always important since we live in a globalized world; there is the added benefit of being in another culture that you can learn from,” said Professor Duong.

For any questions on any of the classes students may be interested in taking next quarter on Vietnam studies or on the Hue trip this summer, please go to the SEATRIP website at: http://www.seatrip.ucr.edu

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