Organized Panel Session
This panel investigates the social life of print—the people, places, and political infrastructure of print production and circulation in colonial Vietnam. By grounding the discussion of print as social modes of communication and network of information politics, this panel seeks to offer a revised analytical lens of print and power within modern Vietnamese history. The interwoven cultural mission and commercial practices of the Đời Nay (This Life) publishing house in Tonkin shed light on the economics of cultural production in late colonial Vietnam. The intellectual milieu or ‘public sphere’ in Annam engaged in both local and transregional networks of print circulation and association. These Vietnamese networks of information production and consumption navigated the changing colonial order of surveillance and repression. At the same time, government administrators, librarians, and publishers debated how to systematically enact a comprehensive print regime of pro-colonial propaganda, state sponsored publishing, and distribution to combat political subversion and ‘dangerous’ mass organizing.
This panel brings in conversation the various historical-theoretical frameworks of print communities—Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities,’ Jürgen Habermas’ ‘public sphere,’ and David Marr’s ‘new intelligentsia’ and ‘Marxist-Leninist cadre’—to critically reexamine the landscape of Vietnamese print and political community. Challenging the overdetermination of revolutionary and nationalist histories, this focused panel offers a locally driven understanding of the 1920s-1940s as a multilayered moment of political, intellectual, and cultural foment. The papers in this panel demonstrate the necessity to examine ‘print’ within the interwoven market of production and demand, political infrastructure of colonial publishing, and Vietnamese political and intellectual networks.