“In this rich and nuanced work, Scott Laderman shows us how tourism and the making of empire have been inextricably linked during and after the American war in Vietnam. Whether exploring the curious efforts of the former South Vietnamese state and the American military to promote tourism as the war unfolded or interrogating how that ubiquitous traveling bible of the backpack set, the Lonely Planet guide, obscures more than it reveals about the Vietnamese past and present, Tours of Vietnam offers a powerful model for writing a new transnational history of the United States and its engagement in the wider world.”—Mark Bradley, University of Chicago — N/A
“Not a rehash of old arguments, Tours of Vietnam is a stunningly original and truly twenty-first-century exploration of America’s war in Vietnam. Combining vast research, profound insights, and lucid prose, Scott Laderman gives us a multilayered, nuanced, and brilliant vision of interrelations among history, memory, foreign policy, and culture.”—H. Bruce Franklin, author of War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination — N/A
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Tracing a history of ideological assertions embedded in travel discourse, Laderman analyzes the use of tourism in the Republic of Vietnam as a form of Cold War cultural diplomacy by a fledgling state that, according to one pamphlet published by the Vietnamese tourism authorities, was joining the “family of free nations.” He chronicles the evolution of the Defense Department pocket guides to Vietnam, the first of which, published in 1963, promoted military service in Southeast Asia by touting the exciting opportunities offered by Vietnam to sightsee, swim, hunt, and water-ski. Laderman points out that, despite historians’ ongoing and well-documented uncertainty about the facts of the 1968 “Hue Massacre” during the National Liberation Front’s occupation of the former imperial capital, the incident often appears in English-language guidebooks as a settled narrative of revolutionary Vietnamese atrocity. And turning to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, he notes that, while most contemporary accounts concede that the United States perpetrated gruesome acts of violence in Vietnam, many tourists and travel writers still dismiss the museum’s display of that record as little more than “propaganda.”
Scott Laderman is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
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