At the Edge of the Human: Colonial and Postcolonial Terror in Vietnam

Symposium with Helle Rydstrom, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University and Nguyen-võ Thu-huong, UCLA Departments of Asian Languages and Cultures and Asian American Studies.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Asian American Studies Center Conference Room
3232 Campbell Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Photo: Dmitri Baltermants, Vietnam, 1955

In “The Politics of Colonial Violence: Gendered Atrocities in French Occupied Vietnam”, Helle Rydstrom highlights French colonial brutality. She provides a critique of Agamben’s ‘bare life’ in an examination of Tonkin, French Indochina, where colonial discourses of the ‘civilizing mission’ accompanied differentiated colonial violence that, informed by racialized, gendered, and sexualized fantasies, rendered the life of local women and men bare at the boundary of the human.

In “Iterant Remains: Mediating the Necropolitical Event in the Postcolonial Nation,” Nguyen-võ Thu-huong examines an instance of postcolonial revolutionary terror in 1950s North Vietnam and its mediation to raise questions about the relationship between colonial and postcolonial terror, when European Enlightenment formulations of truth and error, life and death, return in revolutionary/national liberatory projects that employed terror as the means to similarly demarcate boundaries of the nation and the human.

Helle Rydstrom is Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at Lund University, Sweden. She has been in charge of a large number of ethnographic research projects in Vietnam where she has studied gender, socialization, violence, sexuality, and education. Among her recent publications are “The Politics of Colonial Violence: Gendered Atrocities in French Occupied Vietnam,” European Journal of Women’s Studies, forthcoming; “Gendered Corporeality and Bare Lives: Sacrifices and Sufferings during the Vietnam War,” Signs, vol. 37(2): 275-301, 2012; and with Paul Horton, “Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Vietnam: Privileges, Pleasures, and Protests,” Men and Masculinities, vol. 14(5): 542-564, 2011.

Nguyen-võ Thu-huong is Associate Professor in Asian Languages and Cultures, and Asian American Studies at UCLA.  She is currently working on a book project on necropolitics.  Among her publications are The Ironies of Freedom: Sex, Culture, and Neoliberal Governance in Vietnam, University of Washington Press, 2008; and “Epitaphic Nation: The Problem of the South and Necropolitics in Early Modern Vietnamese Literature,” PMLA 126: 3 (2011): 685-692.


Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Asian American Studies Center

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