Home Institution

Northwestern University

Publication Date

Fall 2006

Program Name

Viet Nam: Culture and Development


This study explores how college aged youth from various regional time and space identities access “national identity” in Vietnam. The study uses a theoretical framework as follows (1) Benedict Anderson’s theory that “nation” is in an “imagined” community (2) Keith Taylor’s theory of how surface orientations of linear time and space do not accurately characterize history. (3) Subaltern Studies: a field of Postcolonial Criticism that considers the alternative historical narratives of subalterns (non-elites, and for our purposes the nationally marginalized). Using this theoretical framework, I then explore how the youth access this “national imagination.” How is it that students connect to a sense of “Vietnameseness” if the historical narratives are unauthentic, and nation is merely imagined? This study is based on 40 student interviews spanning 5 universities, 7 majors, 3 regions, and the 2 major urban centers of Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City). This paper then presents the findings of “national imagination” conception amongst these students in order to show how education functions as a medium for nationality discourse. The study asserts that “nationness” is created in education through four main forces (1) historical linearization (2) fostering of cultural shapes (3) regional reductionism an binaries and (4) institutions. Ultimately this paper explores the implications of this national imagination in postcolonial Vietnam as an example of national identity imagination implications in all postcolonial “nations.”


Political Science | Sociology of Culture


Article Location