November 16, 2022

Luncheon talk with Dr. Sean Fear about South Vietnam’s Quixotic Quest for Global Legitimacy, 1967-1975

November 16, 2022, 11:30 – 13:00, Classroom 501, Level 5

In the next episode of ‘Fulbright Speakers’ Series: The World Beyond a Book’, Fulbright University Vietnam cordially invites you to a luncheon talk with Dr. Sean Fear about Saving Saigon in Central Africa: South Vietnam’s Quixotic Quest for Global Legitimacy, 1967-1975.

⏰Time: 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 (Vietnam time, GMT +7)

📌Location: Classroom 501, Level 5

👉 Register at:

🌟 Lunch will be provided at the venue.

In 1971, a delegation from the Republic of Vietnam (Việt Nam Cộng hòa) traveled half-way around the world on a high-level diplomatic mission destined for the Central African Republic. They were tasked with escorting Martine Thị Nguyễn, a seventeen-year-old mixed-race woman from a slum on the outskirts of Saigon, to meet with Central African Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Bokassa believed Martine to be a long-lost daughter, fathered during a stint in Vietnam as a soldier fighting for France during the First Indochina War. The South Vietnamese military government, meanwhile, hoped that reuniting Bokassa and his daughter might secure of the Cold War’s unlikelier alliances, helping Saigon to begin countering the Vietnamese Communists’ considerable diplomatic success in the developing world.

Beyond just a colorful anecdote, this episode hints at the South Vietnamese Second Republic’s (Đệ Nhị Cộng hòa) surprisingly expansive global diplomacy, which began in earnest after its return to constitutional government in 1967. Contrary to the long-standing notion in English-language scholarship of South Vietnam as little more than an American puppet, the Saigon government showed considerable initiative in seeking to rehabilitate long-neglected regional relationships, and spanning the globe in search of prospective allies.

However, as Dr. Sean Fear will demonstrate in the upcoming talk, the bid to wrest international legitimacy from the communists ended largely in failure, with increased global exposure from the campaign serving only to underscore the government’s mounting authoritarianism and plummeting domestic political support.

This talk will draw on Dr. Fear’s research consulting South Vietnamese periodicals, and on archival work at the National Archives Center II (Lưu trữ Quốc gia II) in Ho Chi Minh City, the United States National Archives and Records Administration, and the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford Presidential Libraries.


Fulbright Speakers’ Series is a quest for knowledge and understanding with diverse incisive viewpoints of prominent authors, both in Vietnam and globally, venturing into a myriad of topics ranging from development history and current Vietnam in the context of globalization, to the importance of mental health in being a compassionate community member.

About the speaker:

Sean Fear is a Lecturer in International History at the University of Leeds. He obtained his doctorate in History from Cornell in 2016. Sean’s research focuses on South Vietnamese domestic politics and diplomacy during the Second Republic (1967-1975).  He has conducted research in Vietnam, Great Britain, France, Canada and the United States, and draws heavily on Vietnamese-language official records and print media. His publications have appeared in Diplomatic History and the Journal of Vietnamese Studies, and he is currently working on a book manuscript under contract with Harvard University Press. Sean has received funding and awards from Dartmouth College Dickey Center for International Understanding, the New York University Center for the United States and the Cold War, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, among others. In 2022-23 he is Visiting Professor of History and Vietnam Studies at Fulbright University Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.