Organized Panel Session
In 1938, Đào Duy Anh published the first history of Vietnamese culture written by a Vietnamese intellectual. He wrote that “are not all of the activities relating to economics, politics, society, and even common customs within the sphere of culture too? The word ‘culture, simply refers to all of the means of life of human beings, and therefore we can say: culture is life.” In the eight decades since Đào Duy Anh’s book appeared, the concept of culture in Vietnam has taken on a life of its own: the catalog of the National Library in Hà Nội lists more than 700,000 items with the word “culture” in the title.
This interdisciplinary panel examines the history of the concept of culture in Vietnam and its utility for understanding changes in that country today. The Vietnamese concept acquired its meaning in the 1920s and 1930s as intellectuals engaged with diverse works of European, Chinese, and Japanese social thought. They immersed themselves in a vibrant “print culture” in places such as the Central Library in colonial Hà Nội. Coffee, a crop first planted during the colonial period, is one of contemporary Vietnam’s most important export commodities. The country’s growing wealth has created a new “culture of consumption” in which “coffee culture” and specialty coffee play a growing role. Vietnamese entrepreneurs in artificial intelligence have self-consciously used the notion of the country’s current economic and cultural transformation to attract support for their ventures in healthcare and agriculture.