March 10, 2022

Virtual chat with Dr. Shawn F. McHale about the Vietnam war, 1945-1956

March 10, 2022, 20:00 – 21:30

Coming up next on another episode, Fulbright Speakers Series: The World Beyond a Book will welcome a distinguished speaker, Dr. Shawn F. McHale. In this virtual discussion, Dr. Shawn F. McHale will shed light on his latest book “The First Vietnam War: Violence, Sovereignty, and the Fracture of the South, 1945-1956”.

Dr. Shawn F. McHale explores why the communist-led resistance in Vietnam won the anti-colonial war against France (1945–54), except in the south. He shows how broad swaths of Vietnamese people were uneasily united in 1945 under the Việt Minh Resistance banner, all opposing the French attempt to reclaim control of the country. By 1947, resistance unity had shattered, and Khmer-Vietnamese ethnic violence had divided the Mekong delta. From this point on, the war in the south turned into an overt civil war wrapped up in a war against France.

In the first half of his book “The First Vietnam War: Violence, Sovereignty, and the Fracture of the South, 1945-1956”, Dr. Shawn F. McHale focuses on the “double fracture” from 1945 to 1947 centered on the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse Mekong delta. This involved the violent political splitting of Vietnamese communities from one another, and the violent ethnic splitting of Khmer from Vietnamese. Contributing to these internal divisions, the French allied with particular Vietnamese and Khmer groups to defeat the Resistance led by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This process deeply shaped southern Vietnam.

In the second half of the book, he looks at particular themes that defined the civil war: race, empire, sovereignty, violence, and institutional collapse and reassemblage. The book pays particular attention to the Franco-Vietnamese “coalition” composed of France, the rising Vietnamese state, rural parastates, and rural strongmen, all of whom militarized and balkanized the South. The failure of the communist-led Resistance in the South to win over these groups explains, in part, the division of Vietnam into two at the Geneva Conference of 1954, and the strange birth of the State of Vietnam, the rival to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in 1954.

Join Fulbright in this exciting discussion with Dr. Shawn F. McHale!

⏰Time: 8:00 – 9:30 PM on Thursday, March 10, 2022 (Vietnam time, GMT +7)

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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:

Dr. Shawn F. McHale is an Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, Department of History, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, USA. Born in Malaysia, Professor McHale has also lived in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, the United States, and France. He received his B.A. with honors from Swarthmore College, an M.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Hawaii, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Southeast Asian history from Cornell University (1995). He teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on Southeast Asian history, Vietnam, history and memory, and colonialism. His research interests include decolonization, the First Indochina War, ethnic conflict, and Vietnamese Buddhism.