Dining in Hanoi
Dr. Huu Ngoc, The Man of Many Wars and Words
Vietnam the Victor
Our group was fortunate to have Karl Fields, director of Asian Studies and professor of Politics and Government at UPS, teach our course on comparative nationalism. Karl’s class spanned throughout our time in Fuzhou, China and Hanoi, Vietnam. The class included sections on the development of nationalism, imperialism, communism, and Confucianism in each country. Our schedule included many visits to famous sites and museums, guest lectures from several esteemed scholars, and opportunities to engage with and interview locals. We all appreciated Karl’s enthusiasm, his depth of knowledge and experience with the countries, and above all his total willingness to gain a new perspective and understanding of the issues right along with us.
I decided to ask Pacrimmers to share their appreciation for the class and Karl’s efforts by responding to the question below:
How did Karl Field's nationalism class shape your experiences in transition from China to Vietnam? How did visiting these two countries in the context of studying comparative nationalism influence your perspective on and experiences within the countries?
"Before Vietnam I had the impression that the north and Ho Chi Mien were evil and the South was good. My whole vision of Ho Chi Mien has changed and I see him as a man who was doing what he thought was best for his people and that the Western powers, US and French were the antagonists. He wasn't a violent or brutal man that killed for pleasure, and the Vietnamese still love him."
"Upon visiting China and Vietnam I wasn’t certain of what to expect. I had some idea of what the political climate in China was like, but I literally could not have guessed how Vietnam would be today except for the fact that a neighbor of mine growing up had traveled there multiple times with his wife. Professor Field’s class established a way for me to understand the two communities and what was unique to each of them. I paid more attention to propaganda and common displays of national identity and tried to think critically about how I would respond to similar situations so I could understand the people."
"Karl Field's nationalism class gave me a useful perspective from which to view China and Vietnam. It made me appreciate the colorful history of these two countries as unique places and also in comparison to one another (and to America). It was important for me to understand the role nationalism played in forming Vietnam, especially due to the surreal recent history Vietnam has shared with America. I would not have appreciated the experience so much without the academic background to color the experience and give me perspective."
"Karl’s class helped me understand where people were coming from with Communism and Nationalism, but it was strange to see all the propaganda and nationalist thinking still in action! It made me feel like I was right in the middle of something big."
"Nationalism is such a dynamic concept when considered in regards to China and Vietnam. Both countries are ideal models for the study of nationalism, yet the two countries exist in two different states. In China, we were able to see nationalism among the majority ethnic group of the country. However, their nationalism seemed to exist as more of a facade that the government exudes since each region tended to have its own dialect and culture. On the other hand, Vietnam was brought together as truly a country of its people and has shown this cohesiveness throughout history and continues to in its economic development."
"The entire time, I kept imagining what it must have been like 50 years ago. It blew my mind the events that took place. More so though, was that these countries’ mentalities hinge upon struggle for the greater good, and the ideals and benefits of communism under a charismatic leader. And above that I thought about youth energy in these countries as a weapon against imperialism and oppression."
"I was actually quite surprised by nationalism in Vietnam. While nationalism in China developed in opposition to someone else (i.e. anti-Japanese or anti-Western nationalism), Vietnam was extremely open to foreigners, and Westerners in particular. They were very welcoming, which I didn't expect considering our history of the Vietnam War. However, to my surprise, I learned that the Vietnamese consider this war to be "the war which no one won."
"Karl's class was really helpful in aiding my understanding of relations between countries and people. It made me notice how wonderful the Vietnamese people are and how easy forgiveness is if it is a focus. The class also made me more aware of how and why people love their countries. It made me see that I really love Asia, but I also REALLY love America."
"To tell you the truth just about everything in Karl's class was interesting to me. But I guess I particularly enjoyed learning about the revolutionaries themselves."
Click here to view the class syllabus!