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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


‘Print Journalism and colonial origins of modern Vietnamese Political Culture, Saigon 1916-1930’, 24th March, 2015 .


‘Print Journalism and colonial origins of modern
Vietnamese Political Culture, Saigon 1916-1930’


Dr. Philippe Peycam,
International Institute for Asian Studies,
Leiden, The Netherlands.


With the beginning of the 1920s, a hybrid public political culture emerged in Saigon. Shaped by the (French) republican legal framework prevailing in southern Vietnam, it was centred on the public figure of the “bourgeois-modernist” who chose print journalism as his main mode of action. Vietnam’s first example of “modern” public politics took thereafter the form of feverishly produced newspapers, sometime by one or a handful of individuals - the “activist-journalists” or nhàbáo -often operating on a shoestring. This talk seeks to explore this social, political and cultural adventure of a group of “activists-intellectuals-journalists” and the fundamental dilemma between public actions privileging collective liberation (option of the Vietnamese Communist Party) at the expense of individual agency through guarantees of free public political (“bourgeois”) debate. This dilemma, experienced in many politically oppressed societies ended in southern Vietnam on April 1975 when a vibrant – anarchic – tradition of political diversity was finally silenced by the Communist victors. Yet, this fundamental tension has recently arisen again, with the multiplication of blogs and other forms of Internet political forums that the current regime in Hanoi is finding hard to suppress. This presentation is based on Philippe Peycam’s recent book: The Birth of Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon 1916-30, 2012.


Dr. Philippe Peycam is the director of the International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden, The Netherlands and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. He is the author of The Birth of Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon 1916-30 (2012). Dr. Peycam is currently working on a book analyzing his experience in Cambodia to frame a reproducible policy model aimed at civil society empowerment through the development of cultural and intellectual institutional infrastructures in post-war societies.

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