Organized Panel Session
Although Catholics have been a minority among Vietnamese, the history of Catholicism in Vietnam and the diaspora provides a fascinating window to study Vietnamese engagement with global and transnational currents and movements. In particular, Vietnamese engagement with global Catholicism has become the basis of many recent works by historians and scholars of religious studies. Having moved from nationalist and binary debates about missionaries, martyrs, and their relationship to colonialism, the new scholarship emphasizes instead the agency of Vietnamese Catholics; their interactions with ideas and organizations from other parts of the global Church; and, in the case of the diaspora, the transnational experience of adapting their Vietnamese religious legacy to meet new realities.
This panel presents a sample of the thematic and topical richness in this scholarship. The first pair of presenters—Anh Tran on early Catholic developments of orthography in the modern script and Lan Ngo on an ecclesial document about clergy formation—work from the fields of linguistics and intellectual history to interpret the Catholic experience before the twentieth century. The next two presenters—Claire Lien Tran on a young worker’s movement and Ngoc-Mai Phan on a devotional youth movement—present studies of Catholic organizations that originated in Europe but became fully developed in Vietnam and turned into an important transnational and ethnoreligious institution in the diaspora for Catholic refugees and immigrants and their children. Along with commentary from a leading historian of Vietnamese Catholicism, these papers offer several dynamic and multifocal approaches to conceptualize this important subject.