Bright sunset in the Mekong Delta.

Vietnam: Race, Violence, and Decolonization in a Mekong Delta at War, 1945-54

Global Studies Speaker Series, Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultures and History Dept. Present Professor Shawn McHale

We often like to think of decolonization in terms of binary struggles between European oppressors and indigenous resistance. But what happens when an anticolonial war is combined with a civil war? Based on extensive research on three continents and in three languages (Vietnamese, French, and English), this lecture focuses on the “forgotten” part of the First Indochina War (1945-54): the war for the Mekong delta, the heart of southern Vietnam. It examines the interactions between existing racial and ethnic stereotypes and a dynamic of violence on an unstable agricultural frontier. This mix led to a particularly vicious war for the countryside, and led to massive out-migration from the delta. Understanding this conflict helps us understand the strange birth of South Vietnam (1954-1975).

The speaker is the author of two books and a range of articles on Vietnamese cultural, social, and political history. His latest work is The First Vietnam War: Violence, Sovereignty, and the Fracture of the South, 1945-56 (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Shawn McHale, a specialist in Southeast Asian History is a Professor in the Dept of History and International Affairs, at  The George Washington University and Thanks for your assistance.