Four Decades On

Vietnam, the United States, and the Legacies of the Second Indochina War

Four Decades On

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 14 illustrations Published: June 2013

Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, History > U.S. History, World History

In Four Decades On, historians, anthropologists, and literary critics examine the legacies of the Second Indochina War, or what most Americans call the Vietnam War, nearly forty years after the United States finally left Vietnam. They address matters such as the daunting tasks facing the Vietnamese at the war's end—including rebuilding a nation and consolidating a socialist revolution while fending off China and the Khmer Rouge—and "the Vietnam syndrome," the cynical, frustrated, and pessimistic sense that colored America's views of the rest of the world after its humiliating defeat in Vietnam. The contributors provide unexpected perspectives on Agent Orange, the POW/MIA controversies, the commercial trade relationship between the United States and Vietnam, and representations of the war and its aftermath produced by artists, particularly writers. They show how the war has continued to affect not only international relations but also the everyday lives of millions of people around the world. Most of the contributors take up matters in the United States, Vietnam, or both nations, while several utilize transnational analytic frameworks, recognizing that the war's legacies shape and are shaped by dynamics that transcend the two countries.

. Alex Bloom, Diane Niblack Fox, H. Bruce Franklin, Walter Hixson, Heonik Kwon, Scott Laderman, Mariam B. Lam, Ngo Vinh Long, Edwin A. Martini, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Christina Schwenkel, Charles Waugh


“Libraries seeking materials involving the history of memory will not go wrong by adding this excellent book to their collections. Highly recommended.” — C. C. Lovett, Choice

“In summary, there are a lot of good bits in Four Decades On… [T]hose seriously interested in plumbing where Vietnam is headed or where the United States has been will want to have it on a handy shelf.” — David Brown, Contemporary Southeast Asia

Four Decades On is a rich collection that provides insight into the complex legacies of the Viet Nam War, which manifest themselves in local, national, and global contexts. The anthology reminds us of the need for multi-lingual, multi-shore, and interdisciplinary methodologies to more fully grapple with the meaning of war.”  — Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Journal of Military History

“Given that this volume speaks to emerging trends in the historiography of the Vietnam War and Vietnamese studies, I would highly recommend Four Decades On to academics in these respective fields, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates. . . . .These scholars also remind us that past narratives of the Vietnam War have obscured or omitted the voices and actions of the Vietnamese. Future histories must place Vietnamese and American voices in meaningful conversation, and the international lens adopted in the essays outlined above can remedy that lacunae.” — Joshua Akers, H-War, H-Net Reviews

" . . . this collection deserves close attention from anyone seeking a better and more complete understanding of the Second Indochina War and its legacies."   — Andrew L. Johns, Journal of American History

"This outstanding collection of eleven essays . . . merit study by every citizen." — Moss Roberts, Pacific Affairs

“The book also goes well beyond earlier anthologies on the legacies of the war by blending contributions by historians, anthropologists, and literary scholars. As a result, the book touches on everything from high politics and diplomacy to literature, folklore, and religion and deserves the attention of scholars in  numerous disciplines.” — Mark Atwood Lawrence, History: Reviews of New Books

"Four Decades On meets the clear scholarly need for a volume that explores the aftermath of the Vietnam War in Vietnam and the United States. This strong collection of essays demonstrates that the war continued to shape critical dimensions of Vietnamese and American history after 1975 and that these postwar developments must be conceived in a transnational frame." — Mark Philip Bradley, author of Vietnam at War

"Four Decades On is a most valuable collection of essays analyzing the legacies of the Second Indochina War from inside Vietnam and the United States and, in some essays, from broader transnational perspectives. Addressing film, literature, politics, memory, Agent Orange, the environment, trade, and reconciliation and its absence, this collection would make an excellent concluding assignment to any course on the Vietnam War." — Marilyn B. Young, coeditor of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Scott Laderman is Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He is the author of Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory, also published by Duke University Press.

Edwin A. Martini is Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of History at Western Michigan University. He is the author of Agent Orange: History, Science, and the Politics of Uncertainty and Invisible Enemies: The American War on Vietnam, 1975–2000.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: National Amnesia, Transnational Memory, and the Legacies of the Second Indochina War / Scott Laderman and Edwin A. Martini 1

1. Legacies Foretold: Excavating the Roots of Postwar Viet Nam / Ngo Vinh Long 16

2. Viet Nam and "Vietnam" in American History and Memory / Walter L. Hixson 44

3. "The Mainspring in This Country Has Been Broken": America's Battered Sense of Self and the Emergence of the Vietnam Syndrome / Alexander Bloom 58

4. Cold War in a Vietnamese Community / Heonik Kwon 84

5. The Ambivalence of Reconciliation in Contemporary Vietnamese Memoryscapes / Christina Schwenkel 103

6. Remembering War, Dreaming Peace: On Cosmopolitanism, Compassion, and Literature / Viet Thanh Nguyen 132

7. Viêt Nam's Growing Pains: Postsocialist Cinema Development and Transnational Politics / Mariam B. Lam 155

8. A Fishy Affair: Vietnamese Seafood and the Confrontation with U.S. Neoliberalism / Scott Laderman 183

9. Agent Orange: Coming to Terms with a Transnational Legacy / Diane Niblack Fox 207

10. Refuge to Refuse: Seeking Balance in the Vietnamese Environmental Imagination / Charles Waugh 242

11. Missing in Action in the Twenty-First Century / H. Bruce Franklin 259

Bibliography 297

About the Contributors 313

Index 315
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5474-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5462-8
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