The past in the present: the Cold War in Southeast Asia

Retour aux événements

Speaker : Vatthana Pholsena (EHESS)

Title : The past in the present: the Cold War in Southeast Asia

Abstract :

This presentation deals with present-day traces of the Cold War in Northeastern Thailand; to borrow Heonik Kwon’s expression, we approach the Cold War “as a slowly decomposing process” (2010, 9). Despite constituting a critical period in the history of the region, the Cold War and its legacy are relatively under-studied in the scholarship on Southeast Asia. Yet, this period was marked by deep political, economic and socio-cultural changes, as well as by extreme violence. Our talk focuses on a border area in Nakhon Phanom Province, adjacent to the Thai-Lao border. This borderland was a key frontline during the Cold War: a large US military airbase was set up outside Nakhon Phanom town from which operations were conducted over Laos and Vietnam, and the province was the site of a Thai government counter-insurgency campaign against the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in addition to being the location of Vietnamese anti-colonial activities in the first half of the 20th century. Our presentation aims to show how the Cold War past(s) is persisting in the present and how it is represented, interpreted, modified and exploited by peoples and the State in northeastern Thailand. This ‘history as ongoing process’ will be illustrated through case studies of commemorations and memorials, involving former members of the Communist Party of Thailand and Thai villagers of Vietnamese descent.    

References :

Kwon, Heonik. 2010. The Other Cold War. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bio :

Vatthana Pholsena is a CNRS Research Fellow and co-Head of the Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CNRS-EHESS) in Paris. She previously taught as an Associate Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. She is the author of Post-War Laos: the Politics of Culture, History and Identity (Singapore, Ithaca: ISEAS, Cornell University Press, 2006) and Laos. Un pays en mutation (Paris: Éditions Belin, 2011). Among other publications, she has also co-edited two books: Interactions with a Violent Past. Reading Post-Conflict Landscapes in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, with Oliver Tappe (Singapore: NUS Press, 2013) and Changing Lives in Laos, with Vanina Bouté (Singapore: NUS Press, 2017).

  • When ?

Tuesday the 28 April 2020 from 2:00 pm till 4:00 pm

  • Where ?

Room R42.5.110

Building R42, 5th floor

Avenue Roosevelt, 42

1050 - Bruxelles