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Scholar to Study Vietnamese Cinema


UC Riverside Scholar to Study Vietnamese Cinema

Lan Duong wins Fulbright fellowship to continue studies of the historical context and evolution of filmmaking in Vietnam.

(August 8, 2011)

Lan DuongEnlarge

Lan Duong

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A proposal to study 50 years of filmmaking and the role of cinema in Vietnam has won Lan Duong, assistant professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside, a 2011-12 Fulbright fellowship.

Duong will research the history of Vietnamese cinema for a book titled “Transnational Vietnamese Cinemas: Imagining Nationhood in a Globalized Era.” Specifically, she will examine how Vietnamese nationhood has been realized on film and how cinema in Vietnam has changed within the past 50 years. Duong suggests that through cinema, one can understand the processes by which a postcolonial Vietnam sees itself as a cohesive nation and imagines its culture and history.

“These are important questions to pursue because iconic images and films about Vietnam have narrated a particular story to the West about Vietnam: the country is primarily viewed as a country of war,” Duong said. “While many books have dealt with how other peoples and nation-states have understood Vietnam, few explore the ways that the Vietnamese filmically imagine themselves in relation to their own history. Film is now a foundational aspect in everyday and academic conversations about art, the state, and culture. In Vietnam, scholars and students of film are interested in discussing the transnational aspects of Vietnamese cinema as well as its postcolonial past.”

Duong’s first book, “Treacherous Subjects: Gender and Culture in Viet Nam and the Diaspora” (Temple University Press, forthcoming 2012), laid the foundation for her current research project.

“Collaboration is central to a Vietnamese history marked by foreign occupation in which the Vietnamese have had to resist or comply with foreign powers,” she explained. “’Treacherous Subjects’ pivots upon the dual meaning of collaboration, as a collective artistic endeavor or a political act of treason.”

Her research identifies the ways that these collaborations are viewed “either as acts of feminine betrayal or masculine loyalty to a nation the Vietnamese at home and abroad imagine in familial terms.”

Duong’s new project analyzes Vietnamese cinema through the prism of gender and history, and against the backdrop of the country’s two wars with France and the U.S, national reunification in 1975, and economic reforms instituted in 1986. “Transnational Vietnamese Cinemas” begins with the formations of a nationalist Vietnamese film industry in 1954 and ends with the contemporary era, in which the same industry must contend with the global market and an increasingly consumerist domestic audience.

Her research analyzes how mostly women serve as metaphors for the nation throughout Vietnam’s cinematic history. “Portrayed as sacrificial mothers, treasonous prostitutes, or waiting wives, women in Vietnamese films reflect the historical roles they have played on and off the battlefield during times of war and peace,” she said.

The Fulbright Program is the leading international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and people of other countries, according to the program’s website. The program, which awards approximately 8,000 new grants annually, was established in 1946 under legislation by Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It operates in more than 150 countries.

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