You are here

Vietnam and the West: New Approaches

Vietnam and the West: New Approaches
Wynn Wilcox, ed.
Publication Year: 
Publication Number: 

Early studies of Vietnam’s relationship with the West tended to focus on the country’s political and military responses to the aggressions of foreign powers, such as those marking the French colonial period (1862–1954) and the US–Vietnam War. The nine essays in this volume take a different approach. Rather than assuming a clash between Vietnamese and Western civilizations, they examine the ways in which the Vietnamese have reformulated conceptions of the West within their own cultural context. In essays examining Catholicism, medicine, literature, gender relations, labor unions, the “third force,” Agent Orange, and contemporary water rights, the contributors show how the Vietnamese have adapted and integrated Western ideas from the sixteenth century onward.

Drawing on in-depth fieldwork and archival research in Vietnam, France, and the United States, the essays in this volume explore interactions between Vietnam and the West that have spanned many generations and shaped Vietnamese responses to the wars of the twentieth century. This volume illuminates the complex historical background of the region’s colonial and postcolonial conflicts by avoiding Eurocentric assumptions about the “Vietnamese response” or “Vietnamese modernization,” while retaining a concern for the centrality of indigenous identities and culture. Vietnam and the West revises our understanding of the reasons for the tragic conflicts in twentieth-century Vietnam.


Wynn Wilcox is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of History and Non-Western Cultures at Western Connecticut State University. His articles on Vietnamese intellectual and literary history have appeared in Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Crossroads, and Duke University Press’s positions: east asia cultures critique. He is researching the role of twentieth-century Vietnamese politics in constructing earlier Vietnamese history.


Diane Niblack Fox, Assistant Professor of History and Anthropology at the College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts; Marc Jason Gilbert, National Endowment for the Humanities Endowed Chair in World History at Hawai’i Pacific University; Christopher L. Kukk, Associate Professor of Political Science and director of the Honors Program at Western Connecticut State University; Micheline Lessard teaches Southeast Asian history at the University of Ottawa, Canada; Brian Ostrowski, an independent scholar, earned his doctorate at Cornell University in 2006; Sophie Quinn-Judge, Associate Director of the Center for Vietnamese Philosophy, Culture, and Society at Temple University (Philadelphia); C. Michele Thompson, Professor of History at Southern Connecticut State University; Edmund F. Wehrle, Associate Professor of History at Eastern Illinois University; and Wynn Wilcox (ed.).


The rich interdisciplinary essays that make up this important volume fundamentally rethink the place of “the West” as an imagined and real presence in the Vietnamese past and present. Their expansive chronological and topical range—from sixteenth-century Vietnamese Catholic literati to contemporary victims of Agent Orange—reveals the complex processes through which myriad translocal vernaculars have emerged in Vietnam over the last five hundred years. A splendid achievement.—Mark Philip Bradley, The University of Chicago, author of Vietnam at War

What the reviewers are saying …

Vietnam and the West is a smart, ambitious historical collection … [T]he opening piece by Wilcox should be required reading for every introduction to Vietnamese studies on undergraduate and graduate courses … Vietnam and the West manages to unearth nuanced historical nuggets complicating the internal/external binaries and domestic/foreign relationship perceptions of nearly all previous Vietnamese historical scholarship.—Mariam B. Lam, South East Asia Research

Vietnam and the West is a welcome addition to the literature on the interactions between the West and Asian states before, during, and after 'colonial encounters.' It deserves a wide readership among scholars of colonialism and colonial history, of Vietnamese studies, as well as those of other disciplines, regional specializations, and chronological foci.—Mark W. McLeod, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

This volume not only represents a careful, but also a well-sampled chronology. […] One of the greatest accomplishments of Vietnam and the West is not only in the individual essays that broaden the horizons of scholarly understanding, but also in the form that these essays have taken in adaptations of cross- disciplinary approaches and subject materials to attract scholars from the tradition separated intellectual zones of the humanities and the sciences.—William Noseworthy, IIAS Newsletter 

Taken together, the essays offer insight into aspects of Vietnamese life which have been pushed aside by writers preoccupied with wars and ideological struggles … the arguments are marshaled carefully.—Paul Cheeseright, Asian Affairs


ISBN (hardcover): 
Price (hardcover): 
ISBN (paperback): 
Price (paperback):