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Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

Chainsmokers “Closer” Covers in Southeast Asia

I read an article last week by Ariel Heryanto called “Popular Culture for a New Southeast Asian Studies?” [in The Historical Construction of Southeast Asian Studies; Korea and Beyond, edited by Park Seung Woo and Victor T. King (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013), 226-262.]

Essentially what Heryanto argues in that article is that popular culture is a topic that scholars have traditionally not focused on, but that if we examine what kind of popular culture is popular in certain areas we can gain an interesting perspective on “what is Southeast Asia.”

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Modern Southeast Asian History Seminar: Knowledge Production (Week 1)

This is a video summary of a weekly seminar that I am teaching (Fall 2017) on modern Southeast Asian History.

The readings from this week are listed below.

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Engaging With Vietnam Hackathon

This is an announcement for the Engaging With Vietnam Hackathon!!

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (8): Who Exactly was Fighting Whom?

There is an extremely important text for the conflict in the 1830s between “Vietnam,” “Siam” and “Cambodia” that I have never seen an historian use before, and that is the The Strategy for Pacifying the Siamese Raiders and Thuận Bandits (Tiễu bình Tiêm khấu Thuận phỉ phương lược 勦平暹寇順匪方略).

This text contains very detailed information about the conflict between “Vietnam,” “Siam” and “Cambodia” in the early 1830s; much more detailed information than the Nguyễn Dynasty chronicles, The Veritable Records of Đại Nam (Đại Nam thực lục 大南寔錄), contains.

And from those details, one can gain very interesting insights into that conflict.

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (8): Who Exactly was Fighting Whom?”

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (7): Opium and Gambling

One very interesting aspect about what historians have labeled “the Vietnamese annexation of Cambodia” in the 1830s is that from the perspective of the values that a lot of us uphold today one can see both “bad” and “good” elements in this period.

On the one hand, Nguyễn Dynasty emperor Minh Mạng did indeed have a long-term goal of incorporating Cambodia into his empire, and today we see such an effort to take over the sovereignty of another country/kingdom as “bad.”

On the other hand, Ming Mạng also ordered the implementation of certain policies that we value today, such as eliminating excessive taxes, establishing a government based on the concept of meritocracy rather than nepotism, and banning opium and gambling. In other words, some of the things that Minh Mạng wanted accomplished in Cambodia were things that we would today consider “good.”

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Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (6): A Siamese Report on Clothing

Following up on the previous post, there is another source that mentions Cambodian officials and people wearing Vietnamese clothing – a Thai source known as The Battle between An Nam and Siam (Anam Sayam yut อานามสยามยุทธ).

This work was first published in 1907, and then republished in 1971, and was compiled by K. S. R. Kulap Kritsananon, a writer and publisher.

Kulap was a unique figure in that he was a commoner who wrote about history at a time when most historical writings were produced by people in the royal government. However, Kulap supposedly had access to the documents that had been earlier collected by Chao Phraya Bodindecha, one of the main Siamese military officials in the first half of the nineteenth century, and a figure who played a major role in the conflicts between Siam and the Nguyễn Dynasty at that time. (For more on this, see Craig Reynold’s “The Case of K.S.R.Kulap: A Challenge to Royal Historical Writing in Late Nineteenth Century Thailand.”)

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (6): A Siamese Report on Clothing”

Hoa, Annamite and Ta: Or Why People Can’t Understand Vietnamese History

I’ve said it a million times before, but I’ll say it here again: “It is impossible to understand pre-20th-century Vietnamese history if one does not read classical Chinese.”

I just came across an example of a single sentence that demonstrates this point perfectly (see the previous post for a detailed discussion of the passage where this sentence comes from).

Continue reading “Hoa, Annamite and Ta: Or Why People Can’t Understand Vietnamese History”

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (5): Clothing

The history of the relations between Cambodia and Vietnam is long and complex, and there are various elements of that history that make people today unhappy or angry when they think about them.

What common people think about the past, however, is not always the same as what historians can see and document about the past. As such, one important role that professional historians play is to try to explain what happened in the past as accurately as possible so that people can base their ideas about the past on an accurate understanding of what actually happened in the past.

That said, there is an issue from the history of Cambodia-Vietnam relations that makes Cambodians very angry that historians have not done a good job of explaining accurately, and that is the idea that during the time of Nguyễn Dynasty emperor Minh Mạng’s reign (1820-1841), Cambodians were forced to change their hairstyle and the way they dressed.

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (5): Clothing”

Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (4): Reordering the Power Structure

In 1834, Vietnamese and Cambodian forces succeeded together in driving the Siamese out of Cambodia, and King Chan, who had fled to Vietnam (see this post) was able to return to Phnom Penh.

In his A History of Cambodia, historian David Chandler writes that “When Chan returned to his battered, abandoned capital in early 1834, he found himself under more stringent Vietnamese control. Thai successes in their overland offences had shown Minh Mạng that he could not rely on the Khmer to provide a ‘fence’ for his southern and western borders. With the defeat of the rebellion, he now moved to intensify and consolidate his control.” (123-24 1st ed.; 149-50 4th ed.)

Continue reading “Revisiting the Vietnamese Annexation of Cambodia (4): Reordering the Power Structure”

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Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

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