Organized Panel Session
The city of Huế has long been regarded as one of modern Vietnam’s primary cultural, educational, and religious centers. As the royal seat of power for centuries, Huế nourished generations of national political leaders, intellectuals, and cultural figures through the twentieth century. After Emperor Bao Dai’s abdication in 1945, the imperial city became home to most of Viet Nam’s former nobility and descendants of the emperor’s family. As ordinary citizens, their lifestyles still set the cultural tone for Huế. Thanks to the rapid growth of the University of Huế in the late 1950s and early 1960s, intellectuals, students, and the university itself played a significant role as agents of social change in the city and interpreters of the nation’s new realities. During the Second Indochina War, a portion of this distinct community, particularly university professors and students, believed that they were better-qualified politically to run the country. Meanwhile, Huế emerged within the Trị Thiên region as a more strategically-important area in the eyes of both communist and republican leaders. Emphasizing the voices of ordinary Vietnamese, this paper highlights select aspects of daily life in Huế in order to understand how everyday folk and former nobility envisioned Vietnam’s future and illuminate why that vision gained ascendance.