Tours of Vietnam

War, Travel Guides, and Memory

Tours of Vietnam

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: Published: January 2009

Author: Scott Laderman

American Studies, History > Asian History, U.S. History

In Tours of Vietnam, Scott Laderman demonstrates how tourist literature has shaped Americans’ understanding of Vietnam and projections of United States power since the mid-twentieth century. Laderman analyzes portrayals of Vietnam’s land, history, culture, economy, and people in travel narratives, U.S. military guides, and tourist guidebooks, pamphlets, and brochures. Whether implying that Vietnamese women were in need of saving by “manly” American military power or celebrating the neoliberal reforms Vietnam implemented in the 1980s, ostensibly neutral guides have repeatedly represented events, particularly those related to the Vietnam War, in ways that favor the global ambitions of the United States.

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.”


Tours of Vietnam represents a lucid and original scholarly account of the far left’s treatment and understanding of the Vietnam War.” — Jamie Gillen, Journal of Vietnamese Studies

“[A] wide-ranging and well-researched book. . . .” — Michael J. Allen, Journal of American History

“One cannot but be impressed by Laderman’s immensely keen eye for connections and detail and the eloquence with which he puts forth his nuanced arguments. That he delivers his critique with a lucid soberness, allowing the facts to speak for themselves, makes his arguments all the more persuasive. This is indeed an extraordinary work in it own right, but even more so considering how extraordinarily timely it is.” — Victor Alneng, Pacific Affairs

“In Tours of Vietnam, Scott Laderman innovatively examines the overlapping elements of history, memory, and international tourism to show the ways in which Americans and the guidebooks with which they travel encounter a place like Vietnam even while remaining steeped in little-recognized ideological presumptions. . . . [H]is nuanced, carefully qualified arguments and innovative use f sources cannot be easily dismissed. For specialists and interested general readers, including travelers to Vietnam, Laderman offers much to ponder. . .” — Derek N. Buckaloo, History: Reviews of New Books

“Laderman makes a significant contribution to the cultural history of America’s war in Vietnam.” — Christina Klein, Sojourn

“Laderman’s background in American Studies gives him a solid grasp of cultural studies and his writing an interdisciplinary flare and stylistic shading that will invite readers from many academic fields and levels, the book-buying public, and thoughtful travelers.” — Jerry Lembcke, American Historical Review

“Scott Laderman’s Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides, and Memory is a welcome addition to the growing body of United States scholarship on the American War in Vietnam that takes seriously Vietnamese points of view.” — Viet Thanh Nguyen, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

“This is high-quality scholarship.” — Seth Jacobs, H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews

“Thoroughly researched, Laderman’s book offers a different angle on the conflict through the lens of tourism and collective memory. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

Tours of Vietnam makes a powerful intervention into the on-going scholarly reassessment of the Vietnam wars and their memories along with providing new insight into the ways in which the practices of tourism and the employment of American power did, and do, go hand-in-hand.” — Mark Philip Bradley, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

Tours of Vietnam is a book that overflows with good and useful questions.” — Peter Siegenthaler, Pacific Historical Review

Tours of Vietnam is a valuable addition to the scholarship on the larger questions around the US foreign policy and the unexpectedly substantial role that presumably apolitical cultural products play in shaping national memory and global imaginations.”
— Lana Lin, Left History

“[T]his is an excellent revisionist interpretation of Western involvement in Southeast Asia that belongs in all library collections. Highly recommended.” — D. R. Jamieson, Choice

“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

“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


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Scott Laderman is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Prefatory Note: The Nomenclature of the Vietnam War ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Abbreviations and Acronyms xvii

Introduction: History, Tourism, and the Question of Empire 1

1. Tourism and State Legitimacy in the Republic of Vietnam 15

2. Educating Private Ryan: Tourism and the United States Military in Postcolonial Vietnam 47

3. "They Set About Revenging Themselves on the Population": The "Hue Massacre" and the Shaping of Historical Consciousness 87

4. The New Modernizers: Naturalizing Capitalism in Doi Moi Vietnam 123

5. "The Other Side of the War": Memory and Meaning at the War Remnants Museum 151

Epilogue: Tourism and the Martial Fascination 183

Notes 189

References 249

Index 271
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4414-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4396-7
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