Building Humanities workshop in Vietnam
Building Global Humanities, a three-day collaborative workshop with Fulbright University Vietnam took place in Ho Chi Minh City, last month.
On 13-15 September 2022, Dr Adam Cathcart, Prof Andrea Major, Prof Manuel Barcia, Dr Nir Arielli, Prof Sanjoy Bhattacharya and Dr Sean Fear, all of the School of History, joined AHC Faculty Executive Dean Prof Andrew Thorpe to participate in Building Global Humanities, a three-day collaborative workshop with Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) in Ho Chi Minh City.
FUV is a new non-profit independent English-language institution with a commitment to provide a humanities-focused liberal arts curriculum; the first university of its kind in Vietnam. It currently enrols almost seven hundred students and will expand to over 3,000 students following the completion of a new purpose-built state-of-the-art campus, currently under construction. FUV is a globally oriented institution with several affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region and in North America.
In 2019, following consultations initiated by the School of History, the University of Leeds became its first UK-based partner institution. The Building Global Humanities event was co-organised between Leeds and FUV staff, to strengthen this partnership by developing a programme of research and teaching collaboration. Funding was generously provided by the Faculty of AHC International Researcher Mobilities Award.
Day one of the workshop took place at the Independence Palace Museum in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City – an ideal setting for a history workshop! Though the origins of the building date to 1860s, when it served as the French Colonial Governor-General’s residence, the Palace was comprehensively redeveloped following Vietnam’s independence after suffering damage during a failed coup in 1962. The current structure was designed by architect Ngo Viet Thu, renowned for fusing modernist architecture with traditional Vietnamese decorative elements. Beginning in 1954, the Palace hosted the South Vietnamese government, until a communist tank column blasted through its main entrance gate on 30 April 1975, bringing the Vietnam War to a close.
The workshop began with a brief guided tour of the Palace Museum, where Dr Sean Fear has been working for several years on an upcoming exhibit aimed at presenting a more comprehensive and balanced approach to South Vietnam’s turbulent political history.
Day one of the workshop focused on research collaborations, with the Leeds and FUV delegates presenting their individual research interests and objectives, and identifying methods for partnership. On day two, Leeds representatives toured the FUV campus, then met with members of the FUV Student Historical Society and observed history-themed “video essays” prepared by FUV students. Productive discussions were had about close partnership and collaboration in excellent research-led teaching. The workshop closed with public lectures by three Leeds staff to an audience of FUV students and faculty, followed by a roundtable discussion and lively audience Q&A.
It was an honour to be part of the workshop and in discussions about collaboration with FUV.
By all accounts, the three-day workshop was a great success. Prof Vu Minh Hoang, a specialist in Vietnam Studies at FUV, writes ‘We were truly honoured to welcome and host representatives from the University of Leeds, and grateful to our Leeds colleagues to joining us in Vietnam for an informative and inspiring event. It was wonderful to learn more about the study of History at Leeds, and the many ways in which faculty and students at both our institutions can benefit from closer collaboration.’
Professor Sanjoy Bhattacharya, Head of the School of History at Leeds said, “It was an honour to be part of the workshop and in discussions about collaboration with FUV. FUV is a most impressive institution with a clear and ambitious moral vision which I, as the Head of the School of History, would love to consistently support.
“It is clear that FUV is already a major player in Vietnam's engagement with the world and is steadily developing its strengths to become a global leader in interdisciplinary studies that allow its students to become international leaders. We at the University of Leeds are fortunate to have been invited to take part in this important and transformative journey – and we offer our friendship and collaboration to this equitable partnership with great pleasure.”