Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

The 10th Engaging With Vietnam Conference

We would like to announce that the 10th Engaging With Vietnam: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue Conference will be held from 15-21 December 2018 in Hồ Chí Minh City and Phan Thiết, Bình Thuận. The theme of this year’s conference is “Beyond Dichotomies: Vietnam from Multiple Perspectives.” The deadline to submit individual or panel proposals is 30 September 2018 and notification will be made by 30 October 2018 (earlier submissions are welcome and early notifications can be accommodated).

Given that this is the 10th year anniversary of the Engaging With Vietnam conference series, we are looking forward to marking this milestone by highlighting an exciting range of stimulating keynote sessions and conference activities. And as always, there will be surprises!

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K-Pop River Tourism in Vietnam

The most recent Engaging With Vietnam conference (the 9th) focused on the topics of tourism, development, sustainability, and the preservation of heritage/culture. In the case of Vietnam, these topics are particularly fascinating and relevant ones as over the past two decades the country has witnessed a massive expansion of the tourism sector as business people have sought to cater to the ever-growing number of both domestic and international tourists.

Such a transformation of course brings both positive and negative changes, and this in turn highlights the many issues that the development of tourism encompasses, and the many questions the development of tourism raises.

Who gets to decide what to develop and what to preserve? Who benefits? Who doesn’t? If it is unavoidable that there will be both “winners” and “losers,” what is an acceptable balance between the two? What costs, or negative byproducts, are acceptable in achieving prosperity for the majority? etc.

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A SURPRISE Announcement (Thông báo BẤT NGỜ!!) from Engaging With Vietnam!!!

The 10th Engaging With Vietnam will be held from 15-21 December 2018. For more information, see

Islands and Change

I’ve spent my entire adult life on islands – 6 years on Taiwan and 23 years on Oahu (Hawaii) – and all of the professional knowledge that I have today was learned on those islands.

When I arrived on Taiwan in the summer of 1989, I only knew one word in Chinese – xiexie, “thank you” – and basically did not know anything about the history of any Asian society.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and I’ve also seen so much change since then.

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Historians and Historical Scholarship in the Digital Age

About a week ago, historian Vũ Đức Liêm published an article in the online journal Tia Sáng on “‘Small,’ ‘Brief’ and ‘Narrow’ Histories or a Crisis of Historical Scholarship?” (Những lịch sử “nhỏ”, “ngắn”, “hẹp” hay khủng hoảng của sử học?).

In this article, Vũ Đức Liêm notes that we are living in a time when there are many people who feel that historical scholarship is facing a crisis as students do not seem to be interested in studying it, and historians have little prominence or influence in society. He examines this issue and suggests that there are types of historical scholarship that Vietnamese historians could produce that would be of more interest to the public.


Tia Sang Liem2

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Imagined Communities and an Imagined Southeast Asian Communitas

There are different types of knowledge that have been (and continue to be) produced about Southeast Asia, from area studies knowledge produced in places like North America, Australia and the UK, to nationalistic and ASEAN-focused scholarship produced in the region, to what I would call “academic knowledge” that is produced by scholars (mainly those studying/working in “the West” but who could be from anywhere) who focus on addressing issues in their respective academic disciplines rather than contributing to the understanding of a geographic area (as area studies and ASEAN-focused scholars do) or a nation (as nationalistic scholars do).

These different forms of knowledge exist in tension with each other, and this talk looks at ways to bridge the divides between these different ways of knowing Southeast Asia.

This is a talk that I gave for an event that I could not attend. I have edited out the parts at the beginning and the end that refer to the event, and am sharing the rest for anyone interested in this topic.

Minerva Schools, Baby Boomer Politics and the Decline of Area Studies

This is a discussion about how innovation in some sectors and the lack of innovation in others is transforming the academic landscape and contributing to the decline of area studies (cross-posting from Content Asian Studies).

Finding Confucianism in Vietnam (LMK Vlog #07)

Plenty has been written about Confucianism in Vietnam, but I find that the studies to date (particularly those in English) have generally not examined the types of texts that can really give us the clearest understanding of the role of Confucianism in the Vietnamese past.

In this video we look at one text that can do this. . . and we also talk about zombies and what can cause the universe to explode.

This History of Vietnam Will BLOW YOUR MIND (LMK Vlog #06)

I’ve long said that Christopher Goscha’s survey of Vietnamese history, Vietnam: A New History, will blow readers’ minds.

Well, here is video evidence of that:

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