Introduction Postcolonial Visions
For the purposes of narration and analysis, the idea of ‘‘postcolonial’’ Viet-
nam is essential but also problematic. In terms of the intention of Viet-
namese revolutionaries the postcolonial period was ushered in by the
August Revolution of 1945 and announced yet again in Hanoi on Septem-
ber 2, when Ho Chi Minh recited Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence
before an exuberant crowd of one million Vietnamese. From the perspec-
tive of the revolutionaries, the fact that they staged this drama in Hanoi was
especially poignant because the French had transformed the city into the
headquarters of the colonial regime. The occasion was also significant be-
cause it marked and celebrated the emergence of ‘‘the people’’ as a potent
political force, for it was tens of thousands of ordinary Vietnamese who
brought about the demise of their colonial oppressors. At the level of rheto-
ric and intention, this moment inaugurated the postcolonial period in the
history of Vietnam: it formally concluded more than eighty years of French
colonization and marked the end to nearly five years of Japanese occupa-
tion.The meaning of this moment—the demise of French Indochina and the
emergence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (drv)—was also com-
municated in symbolic terms. By the time Ho Chi Minh made this historic
utterance, Viet Minh revolutionaries had already received the imperial re-
galia from Bảo Ðại, the last of the Nguyễn emperors. They had begun to
make the rupture between the colonial past and the postcolonial present
clear in practical and logistical terms as well: even before the recitation, they
had established many of the basic institutions of government and, in the
days and weeks following the declaration, they continued to elaborate the
administrative capacities of the new state.
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