Voices from South Vietnam at Cornell University

This symposium brought together former leaders of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN, or South Vietnam) with scholars of the Vietnam War, providing researchers with an opportunity to collect data directly from RVN military and civilian leaders.

To date, the majority of Western scholarship on Vietnam has been concerned primarily with American or North Vietnamese experiences, while studies on South Vietnam have largely been limited to the First Republic (1954-1963). There is still no full-length study of the RVN after the fall of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963, a gap that critically limits our understanding of the Vietnam War.

This event broke new ground by focusing on several key developments that occurred after 1963, including the introduction and withdrawal of American combat troops, the rise of the South Vietnamese military in domestic politics, the development of an electoral system, agrarian reform, and transformations in international diplomacy.

South Vietnamese actors were at the center of these developments, rewriting the country’s constitution, introducing elected government, establishing legislative and judicial protocols, directing military campaigns, leading popular protest movements, participating in international diplomacy, and resisting or cooperating with the United States. Documenting the experiences of the last leaders of South Vietnam is essential to understanding the Vietnam War.

This project represents one of the first efforts to link the academic community with former South Vietnamese officials, whose experiences have largely been overlooked in Vietnam War scholarship.

The conference was attended by around forty participants. Over the two days, four panels were discussed fruitful and brought many unknown details on the political, social, cultural, economic and military life of the Second Republic of Vietnam (1967-1975).

US and Canadian scholars were present: Lien Hang Nguyen (University of Kentucky), Frederick Logevall (Cornell University, Director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies), Stephen J. Morris (Johns Hopkins University), Nu-Anh Tran (University of California-Berkeley), Thomas Pepinsky (Cornell University), Geoffrey C. Stewart (University of Western Ontario), Tuong Vu (Princeton University), Van Nguyen-Marshall (Trent University, Ontario), Jay Veith (Author of Black April, The Fall of South Vietnam), and the team of young researchers from Cornell University (Alex Thai Vo, Ang Claudine, John Phan, Bui Hong, Edmund J.V. Oh, Sean Fear…). French scholar François Guillemot represented the Lyon Institute of East Asian Studies (IAO).

The Kahin Center – SEAP (Cornell University)

Dr. Keith Taylor (Cornell University) and François Guillemot (IAO)

South Vietnam Symposium


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