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by Neil L. Jamieson

Download Understanding Vietnam (Philip E. Lilienthal Book.) fb2, epub

ISBN: 0520201574
Author: Neil L. Jamieson
Language: English
Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (March 10, 1995)
Pages: 448
Category: Humanities
Subcategory: Other
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 413
Size Fb2: 1416 kb
Size ePub: 1697 kb
Size Djvu: 1883 kb
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Series: Philip E. Lilienthal Book. Paperback: 428 pages.

Series: Philip E. The author attempts to develop a unified theory of Yin-Yang, referred to as metaphorically heuristic devices by the author, in explaining historical events as seen and felt by certain class of Vietnamese people. While the author's approach is truly unique, and sometimes magnificent, there is a sense of incompleteness, perhaps intentional, in the coverage of the subject.

It is not a comprehensive history as much as a comprehensive look into what being Vietnamese meant during that nation’s crucial transformation from a stifling Confucian monarchy under French domination to an autocratic and totalitarian state in the North, at war with an autocratic authoritarian state in the South, and thereafter.

Neil L. Jamieson, after many years of living and working in Vietnam, has written the book that provides this understanding. Jamieson paints a portrait of twentieth-century Vietnam. Against the background of traditional Vietnamese culture, he takes us through the saga of modern Vietnamese history and Western involvement in the country, from the coming of the French in 1858 through the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

Items related to Understanding Vietnam (Philip E. Jamieson paints a portrait of twentieth-century Vietnam

Items related to Understanding Vietnam (Philip E. Neil L. Jamieson Understanding Vietnam (Philip E. ISBN 13: 9780520201576. Understanding Vietnam (Philip E.

Understanding Vietnam (Philip E. by Neil L. Jamieson.

Understanding Vietnam book.

Understanding Vietnam. A Philip E. pp. xxviii, 602, front. Berkeley, et. University of California Press, 1995.

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Target/Movies, Music & Books/Books/All Book Genres/History Books‎. product description page. Understanding Vietnam - (Philip E. by Neil L Jamieson (Paperback).

The American experience in Vietnam divided us as a nation and eroded our confidence in both the morality and the effectiveness of our foreign policy. Yet our understanding of this tragic episode remains superficial because, then and now, we have never grasped the passionate commitment with which the Vietnamese clung to and fought over their own competing visions of what Vietnam was and what it might become. To understand the war, we must understand the Vietnamese, their culture, and their ways of looking at the world. Neil L. Jamieson, after many years of living and working in Vietnam, has written the book that provides this understanding.Jamieson paints a portrait of twentieth-century Vietnam. Against the background of traditional Vietnamese culture, he takes us through the saga of modern Vietnamese history and Western involvement in the country, from the coming of the French in 1858 through the Vietnam War and its aftermath. Throughout his analysis, he allows the Vietnamese―both our friends and foes, and those who wished to be neither―to speak for themselves through poetry, fiction, essays, newspaper editorials and reports of interviews and personal experiences.By putting our old and partial perceptions into this new and broader context, Jamieson provides positive insights that may perhaps ease the lingering pain and doubt resulting from our involvement in Vietnam. As the United States and Vietnam appear poised to embark on a new phase in their relationship, Jamieson's book is particularly timely.

Comments:

Moogura
Its very title, Understanding Vietnam, urged me to rate it anything but five stars. But if any Vietnam book merits five stars, Neil Jamieson’s does. It is not a comprehensive history as much as a comprehensive look into what being Vietnamese meant during that nation’s crucial transformation from a stifling Confucian monarchy under French domination to an autocratic and totalitarian state in the North, at war with an autocratic authoritarian state in the South, and thereafter. His is only book I can remember that makes an honest assessment of Ngo Dien Diem, along with an interesting comparison of both Diem and Ho Chi Minh’s leadership styles.

It is a bit outdated in that he did not have access to Dixee Bartholomew Feis’s The OSS and Ho Chi Minh, or to Brocheux and Hémery’s Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization; the first of which provides a more detailed view of the relatively minor OSS operational role in Indochina, and the second of which is far more thorough in laying out the contributions and disadvantages of French colonialism. Thus Jamieson overstates OSS assistance to the Viet Minh, but does note that Ho Chi Minh (HCM) himself exploited the appearance of such assistance to back his bid for leadership. He expounds on French involvement in Indochina’s economy, in the hands of a “mere handful" of (presumed) Frenchmen but ignore the equally important Ethnic Chinese role, as well as that of Indian money lenders and Vietnamese landlords in the Mekong Delta rice business.

Some glitches that surprise: He credits HCM with almost single-handedly publishing “Nien Thanh” (Youth) which is really Thanh Nien, and he refers to the “Nghe An Soviet” movement of the early ‘30s, which is properly the Nghe Tinh Soviet. His focused writing style can lead to false conclusions. He states that the French founded University of Hanoi was “abolished” in the first decade of the 20th Century “without completing a single semester.” Shut down would have been a better choice of words, as it reopened as an expanded university in 1917 and Vo Nguyen Giap, Truong Chinh and Pham Van Dong all met there in the 1930s, as Jamieson points out on page 157. These are minor. More serious is his attributing to General LeClerc (sic) a statement that it would take a month to reassert French rule over Indochina by force of arms. Considering the meager forces at Leclerc’s command when he arrived in Indochina, and the level of resistance he encountered, the idea of him making such a simplistic statement boggles the mind. I’ve never seen it in any French sources. Likewise, Jamieson has the U.S. “increasing its aid to France” shortly after the arrival of the Chinese PLA on the border in December 1949. Accepting that October 1950 might be ‘shortly after’ Mao’s victory in China, the fact remains that there was no support to the French in Indochina prior to 1950, when Giap’s Chinese trained regulars destroyed a division’s worth of elite French troops between Cao Bang and That Khe in October. Even then, it took well over eighteen months before any U.S. military aid was forthcoming.

Notwithstanding these and other errors, Jamieson delivers. His history is very good, his insights better than very good, and his use of Vietnamese prose and poetry to frame the Vietnamese dilemma in the face of their perceived history, cultural, regional, and class divisions, modernization, and the subsequent wars is nothing short of brilliant. Yes, he could have trimmed the literature a bit. But the points he makes echoed in everyday Vietnamese life. The tragedy is that a book of this quality was not available to those of us who worked with Vietnamese when it was so desperately needed. But it is available now, and anyone, Westerner or Viet Kieu, contemplating work or residence in Vietnam could do no better than read Jamieson to gain some valuable insights into what makes the country tick.
Arlana
The author freely admits this book is a result of his doctoral thesis in anthropology. It is not an easy read. I recommend making a list of Vietnamese terms and Jamieson's explanations, then using that as a bookmark. Slogging through the first 50 pages is tough. You have to be determined to read this book. I was. I wanted some insight into why I fought there. The book does shed some light on this. I drew my own conclusions from this work from what Jamieson did not say. Vietnam has been a country that was never really culturally united. It has been a country that has always struggled for identity. The French colonial system seemed to shine as a beacon for all that was wrong with Western imperialism. The U.S. venture into Vietnam brought a corruption of wealth and a disruption of economic processes which were exacerbated by the sudden withdrawal. Jamieson depends heavily on the printed word for his analysis. I'm not sure how valid that is, but it is revealing. The three star rating is for readability: maybe playing the Rocky soundtrack would help encourage one to keep going.
I would give it four stars for understanding. Meanwhile, I think I need some other perspectives to fill in the understanding presented in Understanding Vietnam.
showtime
"Understanding Vietnam" is a book about the mutual effects between the Vietnamese people and events shaping up the country in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The author attempts to develop a unified theory of Yin-Yang, referred to as metaphorically heuristic devices by the author, in explaining historical events as seen and felt by certain class of Vietnamese people. While the author's approach is truly unique, and sometimes magnificent, there is a sense of incompleteness, perhaps intentional, in the coverage of the subject. The main thesis of the book is the view that the history of Vietnam is a series Yin and Yang forces interacting with each other, both temporally and spatially.

In chapter 1, after a very brief review of the early history of Vietnam, the author quickly delves into several aspects of Vietnamese cultural and social values such as reason, filial piety, moral debt, brotherhood, righteousness, spontaneity and feeling, harmony, etc. The author then expands these basic values into discussions on fundamental institutions such as marriage, village, and national integration. The author argues that these concepts are important because "one cannot attain a very sophisticated understanding of current Vietnamese behaviors without taking the persistence of traditional Vietnamese culture into account" (p. 41).

Chapter 2 chronicles the French occupation of Vietnam in the 19th century. The poems of Nguyen Khuyen, Tu Xuong are reviewed along the writings and activities of Truong Vinh Ky, Tran Trong Kim, Pham Quynh, Dao Duy Anh.

Chapter 3 introduces how the West influenced the Vietnamese intellectuals as a mild form of literary revolution through the promotion of individualism in literature. The author provides excerpts of writings from writers such as Khai Hung, Nguyen Cong Hoan, Nhat Linh (Nguyen Tuong Tam) and discusses the literary war among factions of writers and poets in the 1930's.

Chapter 4 moves from the laborious literary review in Chapter 3 to a standard narrative of historical events taking place during 1940-1954 highlighted by some writings of communist writers.

Chapter 5 reinforces the concept of Yin-Yang during the period 1955-1970. Here, the two forces clashed. While the Yin metaphor permeated the literature world in the South with "individual sensibility, spontaneity, and unfettered emotionalism (p. 246), the Yang fueled the North with "unity, conformity, the power and satisfaction of collective action, and communitas of shared affliction" (p. 255). The author narrates the dark episode of communist suppression of literary voices in the North: the crush of the "Humanities" and "Arts and Letters" movement. Poems and songs from the North and South by poets (e.g., Huy Can) and musicians (e.g., Pham Duy) are recited as additional evidence of this contrast.

Chapter 6 espouses further the Yin-Yang interactions that took place during 1968-1975. While the Yang represents the American might, the ARVN, the military forces, the men, the battles, the Yin dampens this force with the poets and musicians' sudden realization of the devastating effect of the war through the verses of Nguyen Sa and the lyrics of Pham Duy and Trinh Cong Son. South Vietnamese began to question the legitimacy of American presence in Vietnam.

Chapter 7 describes "another cycle unfolds" (p. 357) after the Vietnam War. The victorious communists began the process of cleansing the South by literary murders and reeducation camps. "No group of people suffered more at the hands of the party than the writers and poets and journalists of the Republic of Vietnam" (p. 364). The yin-yang interactions continue well into the 80's and 90's with a trend toward stability, but it is not clear if this stability will ever be reached. The author concludes with an advice: "Americans and Vietnamese of all political persuasions and all generations and all walks of life must work to expand the sense of `we' and to diminish the sense of `they.'" (p.376).

After reading "Understanding Vietnam," I feel a sense of incompleteness in the author's treatment of the yin-yang principle in the history of Vietnam. The author claims to have been interested in folklore (p. x), but chose instead to focus the treatment on formal literature of novels, poems, and music. Anybody with an interest in Vietnamese culture knows that Vietnamese folk verses (ca dao) offer a rich source about the people of Vietnam. Ca Dao reflects the Vietnamese people very well, and even captures some historical events efficiently. I would like to see a more balanced treatment of literature evidence through both formal literature and folk verses.

The yin-yang metaphor is actually a very powerful device to analyze the dynamics of the history of Vietnam. But I feel that the author has not applied the principle at more fundamental levels. The author appears to believe that the yin-yang devices have to exist with equal tangible shapes and/or forces. While this is true in several scenarios, it would be more interesting to see how these metaphorically heuristic devices are applied at other levels or structures (e.g., hierarchy). The Vietnam War and the post-war Vietnam offer many places that these devices can be used to gain a firmer understanding of what happened and hopefully what will happen.

The author's numerous lengthy excerpts weaken the discussion and analysis. Readers are either bored or lost. It's hard to read 2-3 pages of an excerpt to understand the writer's point. It's even harder to relate this excerpt with the point the author (Jamieson) is trying to make.

The title "Understanding Vietnam" is overly broad and somewhat misleading. The book should be properly titled with key words such as "yin yang dynamics," "Vietnamese literature," and "Vietnam in the 19th and 20th centuries." Yes, it may be a long title. But I prefer a long and accurate than a short and cryptic title. At least it should be a sub-title.

Nevertheless, the author's ingenious use of yin-yang in explaining the mechanism that drives Vietnam history is commendable. The history of Vietnam in the 19th and 20th centuries is narrated with accuracy and conciseness. The writing is fluid, easy to read, but readers may have to work a little harder to grasp the main points. The use of excerpts is good in explaining or supplementing the events or the ideas, but these excerpts should be shorter, showing only the relevant parts.

As a post-script, which part I like the most? It's on pages 75-76 where the author tells an incident that he actually witnessed about a cross-cultural misunderstanding of a smile. The Vietnamese smile is not necessarily an expression of seeing something funny. One has to be a Vietnamese, or at least has acquired a deep level of familiarity of the Vietnamese culture like the author, to be able to decipher it. Similarly, the Vietnamese silence does not necessarily convey a sense of admission, submission, or defiance. Even the Vietnamese people may misunderstand it.
Lianeni
Outdated bigoted Cold War nonsense.
Alister
This is a very dry and academic book that I simply could not get through. It's my fault perhaps for picking an anthropological book rather than a history book. This book was just filled with marginally relevant anecdotes.
Braned
Interesting book, but as much unnecessary detail and less
you are making a very very intricate study of the entire history of Vietnam

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