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Research Seminars



Haydon Cherry
Northwestern University The Limits of my Language Are the Limits of My World: Đào Duy Anh and the Vocabulary of Vietnamese Marxism


12 May 2017

2:30 p.m.
4.34 Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus



Đào Duy Anh trafficked in translations; he trucked with words. In 1932, Đào Duy Anh published the first Sino-Vietnamese dictionary in French Indochina, perhaps the greatest intellectual achievement of the colonial period. This talk charts the intellectual history of that dictionary. It traces how Đào Duy Anh taught himself to read Chinese from the magazine Nam Phong, while teaching in provincial Annam; it describes his involvement in the Tân Việt Cách Mệnh Đảng; it details how he acquired radical French, German, and Japanese texts in Saigon, sometimes legally, sometimes through the black market book trade; it reveals how Đào Duy Anh introduced new political, economic, and scientific, words and concepts from those works into the Vietnamese language through the Quan Hải Tùng Thư pamphlet series; and finally, it shows how many of those new words – such as "historical materialism," "dialectic," "proletarian," and "class warfare" made their way into his Sino-Vietnamese Dictionary. This talk argues that using his dictionary, Đào Duy Anh popularised a new Marxist vocabulary which the educated Vietnamese public increasingly used to critique French colonial rule. Through tracing the traffic in words and concepts, this paper tells a new story about the intellectual origins of Vietnamese Marxism.


Haydon Cherry (Ph.D., Yale University, 2011) is a historian of modern Southeast Asia, particularly modern Vietnam. His first book, Down and Out in Saigon: Stories of the Poor in a Colonial City, 1900-1940, will be published by Yale University Press. The book traces the changing social and economic history of the poor in colonial Saigon (now Hõ Chí Minh City) by following the lives of six individuals (a prostitute, a Chinese coolie, a rickshaw puller, an orphan, an invalid, and a destitute Frenchman) in the first decades of the twentieth century. His second book project is an intellectual history of twentieth-century Vietnam told through the biography of Đào Duy Anh, arguably the most important Vietnamese scholar of the modern period.


All are welcome. No registration is required.