Feudalism in the Service of the Revolution

Reclaiming Heritage in Hue

Author: Colin Long


This article discusses the way the past is being reexamined in modern-day Vietnam, particularly through the medium of heritage. Hue, the old royal capital of Vietnam, provides the case study, as this city reflects the great themes and events of Vietnamese history over the last two hundred years, from the establishment of a unified nation under the Nguyen, through the imposition of colonial control, the devastation of war, reunification, and the establishment of communism, to the consolidation of an independent postcolonial nation. The importance of Hue's heritage is recognized in its status as a “world heritage” site. The author argues that Hue's heritage is, nevertheless, problematic for Vietnam's ruling communists, because to them it largely represents a regime—the Nguyen Dynasty—that was “reactionary” and that had sold out the country to the French. The apparent contradiction between the standard communist view of the Nguyen past and the value accorded to Nguyen heritage in Hue is resolved, the author contends, by recourse to the depoliticized practices of heritage preservation and tourist promotion.
Countries: Vietnam

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December 2003
© Jeff Kingston