Eve of Destruction: A Social History of Vietnam’s Royal City, 1957 – 1967
Nguyen, Huong Thi Diu
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This research project illuminates how war transformed the social life of ordinary people in the city of Huế in central Vietnam, from the establishment of the University of Huế in 1957 to the Tết Offensive of January 1968. Examining the forces which impacted lifestyle, interpersonal relations, and cultural expression in the imperial city, it exposes the mutability of human experience in all walks of life in a centuries–old national seat and gives voice to the common people in this locus of education, religion, and culture. Vietnam War studies in both the US and Vietnam to date impose top-down perspectives which shape historical understanding in defined direction, and the insistent, nearly-exclusive scholarly focus on political and military activities which prevails has resulted in a comparative dearth of attention to social history and cultural change which exposes to scrutiny the narratives of individual human lives. To the urban residents, be they in the North, Center, or South, the war was not felt as immediately in the typical daily life as in the exurban countryside before 1968 yet nonetheless manifested itself in subtle and ominous ways. The research is rooted in archival government documents, personal memoirs, literature, media, as well as interviews with a wide range of people of Huế living inside and outside the country. By emphasizing the voices of ordinary people under the shadow of war, this grassroots history seeks to remedy the Western-centered imbalance in the war’s historiography and provide a new complimentary perspective to Vietnam studies. And beyond modern Vietnam, this research has implications for investigating social and cultural history of other communities that have survived conflicts.
- History 
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