Imagined Ancestries of Vietnamese Communism
Ton Duc Thang and the Politics of History and Memory
In prominence and public visibility second only to Ho Chi Minh, whom he succeeded in the presidency, Ton Duc Thang in fact lacked any real power. Author Christoph Giebel reconciles this seeming contradiction by showing that it was only Ton Duc Thang who could personify for the Party crucial legitimizing “ancestries”: those that linked Vietnamese communism with the Russian October Revolution, highlighted proletarian internationalism among its ranks, and rooted the Party in Viet Nam’s south. The study traces the decades-long, complex processes in which famous heroic episodes in Ton Duc Thang’s life were manipulated or simply fabricated and—depending on prevailing historical and political necessities—utilized as propaganda by the Communist Party. Over time, narrative control over these tales switched hands, however, and since the late 1950s the stories came to be used in factional disputes by competing ideological and regional interests within the revolutionary camp.
Based on innovative archival research in Viet Nam and France and on analyses of biographical writings, propaganda, and museum representations, the study challenges core assumptions about the history of the Vietnamese Communist Part and sheds light on divisions within the revolutionary movement along regional, class, and ideological lines. Giebel uses the fictions and contested facts of Ton’s life to demonstrate that history-writing and the constructions of memories and identities are always political acts.
About the Author
"This is an audacious and imaginative work from an author with a knack for close and relentless work with sources. It is a strikingly original achievement and an important contribution to Vietnam studies."—The Journal of Asian Studies
"Imagined Ancestries of Vietnamese Communism is pathbreaking in several ways. It is the only scholarly treatment in any language of the life and career of President Ton Duc Thang. It represents the first sustained foray into Vietnamese labor history. Finally, it is a thorough and virtually incontrovertible debunking of Ton’s official history—-a debunking that unfolds with the rigorous logical reasoning and narrative suspence of a good detective story."—Peter Zinoman, author of The Colonial Bastille: A History of Imprisonment in Vietnam, 1862–1940
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