Humanities Moments

Items in the Contested Territory: America’s Role in Southeast Asia, 1945–75 Collection

Contested Territory:  The Saigon Staircase in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum
Sometimes you have to leave a place to understand it better. By travelling to North Carolina, I have come to understand a local resource in a new and different way. The idea of Vietnam as contested territory has long held fascination for me. …

"Three Mountain Pass" - Connecting to Vietnam
For teenagers, the world they live in is often described as “normal” and everything else is “weird.” One of my goals as a history teacher is to help my students recognize difference, but also to feel connected to people who lived in a much different…

The Truth About Territory
Over the course of the National Humanities Center Institute on Contested Territory: Southeast Asia 1945-1975 through the National Endowment for the Humanities, I learned about the contributing factors to the definition of territory. For instance; how…

Sacrifices and the Consequences of Dissent
Muhammad Ali was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1966. Ali did not believe in fighting in the war and he was willing to sacrifice everything based on those principles. “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some…

Why Americans in Indochina Wars?
I misunderstood the Geneva Accords and the reasons behind American involvement in Vietnam. I knew it was in the context of the Cold War but I did not understand why it had to happen and was I to teach a war or a conflict? After Pierre Asselin spoke…

It was never about the slingshot
I was selected for a two week institute entitled, Contested Territory, in which we took a deep dive into the multiple understandings and misunderstanding surrounding the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese refer to it: The American War). I had a basic…

Finding Meaning in Art
My moment came at one of the least expected times for me over the past few weeks. To begin, I am not a lover of art. I generally am not a fan of art museums at all. About four years ago I married my wife who was a fine arts major at Penn…

Flying Over the Ho Chi Minh Trail
When I was young my father, knowing of my interest in music and war, gave me a book entitled "Singing the Vietnam Blues: Songs of the Air Force in Southeast Asia." Actually, he had it hidden so well he lost it and gave it to me years after he…

Forever Maps
5 years ago the AP Human Geography teacher at my former high school announced that she would be moving to Rhode Island. She informed me that I would be taking over the course. I fell in love with the material and am constantly looking for ways to…

The Consequences of War Dissension
The most powerful Humanities Moments for me occurred during William Sturkey’s NEH session entitled “Contested Patriotisms: Dissent and Nationalism on the US Homefront.” One thing that stuck with me was Sturkey’s assertion that “dissention always has…

The Ho Chi Minh and Marcus Garvey Connection
This seminar has been an amazing experience for me. I have always admired Ho Chi Minh. His commitment to the people of Vietnam and his efforts to free his land from colonialism is such an inspirational story. I must admit that I had never heard of…

Perspectives on Commemorating the Vietnam War
“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.
The idea of “contested territories”, which we have wrestled with this week, can…

The Senselessness of Rambo and Other Things
It was the beginning of another morning session for Contested Territory and I was still circulating ideas in my mind about connections between Vietnam and the South Side of Chicago. While perusing my notebook to find a clean page, our speaker for the…

Embracing the Complexity and Chaos of the Humanities Through a Photo
On May 8th, 1957, South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem was greeted by President Dwight Eisenhower (along with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles) at Washington National Airport at the beginning of an official state visit for President Diem.…

Vietnamese Declaration of Independence
The introduction of the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence from the Nancy Gardner presentation was one of the high points of the week for me. Until that time I had not even presumed that such a document existed. To find out that the document…

Contested Perspective
Human connection is the most important part of life to me. I really value great relationships and look forward to connecting with new people every chance I get. Obviously, I am not going to have the same views on every single topic as anyone else. I…

Discovering Contested Territory Through Vietnamese Folk Poetry
Until this summer institute, I had never heard of the Vietnamese folk poetry known as ca dao. To be honest, I had never even thought of Vietnamese people having a poetic tradition at all. I, like so many other Americans, had relegated Vietnam to an…

The Long History of Contested Freedom in Vietnam
“Vietnam” has been a contested idea for a long time. As an American History teacher, I tend to offer my students a compelling look at the American government’s military intervention in Vietnam from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s. Over the course of…

Agency on the Margins
During the NEH Summer Institute on Contested Territory, a moment occurred in a lecture Christian Lentz gave on the Struggles at Dien Bien Phu that caused me to reconsider the agency of marginalized groups. When presenting the notion of conscripted…

You Cannot Copy That Map
In a lecture on the lived experiences of the local peoples of the area surrounding Dien Bien Phu in Northwest Vietnam, Dr. Christian C. Lentz, Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of Chapel Hill, shared this map of the Northwest Region…

Violent Legacy Continued
My moment was a culmination of two. The first was the image or video taken from Muhammad Ali’s comments regarding the Vietnam War. I have played this video many times in class to highlight the conflicting viewpoints and social implications of the…

Contested Autonomy
The video clip I saw of a young Vietnamese-American woman who opened an art gallery in Vietnam led to my humanities moment. She said that her mother disowned her because of her decision to go back to Vietnam. I could relate this to my personal…

There is No Singular Experience
The study of contested territory for me has alway been a story of land and/or ideological dispute between colonial powers, regional peoples, religious factions, or other distinctions that come into play as humans acquire land and promulgate cultural…

Representing Southeast Asia
There’s a game I like to play in class called “Look At.” We practice our close reading skills by gazing at a picture for 3 minutes and then writing down everything we see (or don’t see) about that image by starting each sentence with: “Look at…” When…

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