Living With the Dead: Memory and State Authority in Post-Socialist Vietnam
AbstractThe commemoration of war martyrs has been an im-portant issue in contemporary Vietnam. These collec-tive memories of war martyrs, however, do not appear independently but are organized and shaped by the powerful state machine. The state does not only control the means of remembering, but also prescribes rules for how the past should be remembered. Yet, the state’s centralized authority is not absolute, since it exposes some limits and is challenged by local agents.
 In the mid-1920s, nationalist movements in Vietnam were led by the Vietnamese Nationalist Party (VNP), a political party of Hanoi-based intellectuals. Modeling itself on the Chinese Goumintang, the VNP under the leadership of Nguyễn Thái Học sought independence from French colonial rule. It published many revolutionary materials and attracted attention through its assassinations of French officials and Vietnamese collabora-tors. However, the movement was quickly put down under the suppression of the French. The leader of the VNP, Nguyễn Thái Học was captured and executed in 1930.
 Thus, the soldier who was killed in battle was a martyr (Liệt sĩ), whereas other soldiers and volunteers who died from the acci-dents or disease while serving in military service were classi-fied as “war dead” (tử sĩ) and the large numbers of North Viet-namese civilians killed in American bombing raids were “victim of war” (nạn nhân chiến tranh).
 The first official monument built by the socialist state to com-memorate the fallen soldiers erected in the capital in 1955. The monument was built of wood including a single pillar stood up and a curved roof. The most outstanding feature of this monu-ment was the phrase “The Fatherland Remembers Your Sacri-fice” vertically inscribed on the pillar. Erected in the Ba Đình Square, a historical site of Hanoi, the monument immediately attracted the attention of the public. Its design also became the model for many war monuments in North Vietnam in the 1950s-1960s. The monument was dismantled in 1957, and re-built with bricks at the Mai Dich cemetery several years later.
 The official presence at the ceremony was extensive including the secretary of the Communist party cell, the President or Vice-President of the People’s Committee of the commune in which the family resided. On some occasions every member of the executive committee of the administration and the party cell attended. Some other representatives from the agricultural cooperative and the party’s mass organizations were also in-vited to the ceremony (Nguyyễn, Lê 2003: 218-219; Malarney 2002: 172-79).
 Doi Moi was designed to transform the Vietnamese economy from a socialist, centrally planned economy to one driven by the market. During the implementation of these reformations, central features of socialism, especially the monopoly of politi-cal activity by one party, the Communist Party, and the social ownership of the most important means of production, have been strongly upheld by socialist authorities. However, privat-ization and opening the country to foreign investment has been gradually carried out. Civil society and non-state organizations have been given more space.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).
Култура/Culture by MI-AN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.