Patricia Pelley

Patricia Pelley

Associate Professor - Asia, Vietnam

Ph.D., Cornell University

Patricia Pelley is the author of Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past (Duke University Press, 2002). She was the co-recipient of the First Book Prize of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the winner of the Texas Tech University President’s book award. She has written articles and reviews on a wide range of topics and is currently completing her contribution to the fifth volume of the Oxford History of Historical Writing, edited by Daniel Woolf and Alex Schneider. Her current research project on Catholicism in Vietnam focuses on Marcel Van and the Redemptorist parish of Thái Hà.

In recent years Patricia Pelley has received numerous fellowships and awards, including the Texas Tech University Chancellor’s Research Award and a Fulbright-Hays fellowship, which allowed her to lead a group of TTU faculty to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In addition to serving on the Program Committee of the American Historical Association, she has been a member of the Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship committee of the Association for Asian Studies, and the prize committees of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the Harry J. Benda award in Southeast Asian Studies.

Patricia Pelley teaches a variety of undergraduate courses, including “World History to 1500” (2322), “Religion, Family, State in the Philippines” (3394), “Modern Japan” (4394), and “Modern Vietnam” (4395). In addition to working with graduate students interested in Vietnamese and Asian history (7000), she also teaches research methods (6301) and the History Department’s new course in world history (5307). She is an ex-officio member of the Vietnam Center Advisory Board and a member of the editorial board of Texas Tech University Press. In summer 2010 she will teach a course on French imperial histories in Montpellier (France).

Published Works

Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past

Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past by Dr. Patricia Pelley

New nations require new histories of their struggles for nationhood. Postcolonial Vietnam takes us back to the 1950s to see how official Vietnamese historians and others rethought what counted as history, what producing history entailed, and who should be included as participants and agents in the story. Beginning with government-appointed historians’ first publications in 1954 and following their efforts over the next thirty years, Patricia M. Pelley surveys this daunting process and, in doing so, opens a wide window on the historical forces and tensions that have gone into shaping the new nation of Vietnam.

Although she considers a variety of sources—government directives, census reports, statistics, poetry, civic festivities, ethnographies, and museum displays—Pelley focuses primarily on the work of official historians in Hanoi who argued about and tried to stabilize the meaning of topics ranging from prehistory to the Vietnam War. She looks at their strained and idiosyncratic attempts to plot the Vietnamese past according to Marxist and Stalinist paradigms and their ultimate abandonment of such models. She explores their struggle to redefine Vietnam in multiethnic terms and to normalize the idea of the family-state. Centering on the conversation that began in 1954 among historians in North Vietnam, her work identifies a threefold process of creating the new history: constituting historiographical issues, resolving problems of interpretation and narration, and conventionalizing various elements of the national narrative. As she tracks the processes that shaped the history of postcolonial Vietnam, Pelley dismantles numerous clichés of contemporary Vietnamese history and helps us to understand why and how its history-writing evolved.

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Contact Information

Office: 140 Holden Hall