This article examines how builders and users contested the cultural, political, and social mission and meaning of the Hà Nội Central Library [Bibliothèque centrale de Hanoi] from 1919 to 1941. I argue that the central library was not just a symbol of Western modernity, but a public space in which modern practices were defied and defined by Vietnamese students, urban readers, and administrators. Library readers freely accessed diverse print matter, practiced self-directed learning, and created a social space for study, research, and leisure. Through this historical study, I reveal how the library was a contested colonial institution and a formative space of urban social life.
Reading Rules: The Symbolic and Social Spaces of Reading in the Hà Nội Central Library, 1919–1941
Cindy Nguyen is a postdoctoral fellow in history, Brown University. This article is based on a paper given at the Association for Asian Studies Conference in Denver, Colorado (2019) and awarded the Pattana Kitiarsa Southeast Asia Council’s Paper Prize. Earlier versions of this work were presented at the Asia Research Institute Graduate Forum on Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore (2018). This article is part of a forthcoming book on the history of colonial and post-colonial libraries in Vietnam.
This article received the 2019 best graduate student paper prize from the Vietnamese Studies Group.
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Cindy Nguyen; Reading Rules: The Symbolic and Social Spaces of Reading in the Hà Nội Central Library, 1919–1941. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 25 August 2020; 15 (3): 1–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2020.15.3.1
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