Repression and resistance? French colonialism as seen through Vietnamese museums

Claire Sutherland


The paper examines how resistance to colonial rule is officially represented in contemporary Vietnam. It does so by analyzing selected museums - which are all state-controlled - in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. Although Hanoi’s rich colonial era architectural heritage is slowly being recognized, this reassessment has yet to find a parallel in Vietnam’s official museum discourse. The manner in which the imperial legacy is treated or ignored today through the didactic medium of the museum helps us to understand how contemporary national identity is constructed in opposition to empire. Vietnam’s imperial history remains shadowy, indicating a continuing post-colonial malaise. The fact that museum representation must cater both to an internal audience of Vietnamese and an external audience of tourists, donors, potential investors and foreign dignitaries helps to explain this lack of clarity.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Claire Sutherland

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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