Checking in with Max Keyes in Vietnam

Hi all.

Max on one of the two remaining tanks in Dong Ha (where many American military bases were located during the war).

We asked Max Keyes, one of our two student summer research award winners, to tell us a little about his fieldwork in Vietnam. Here’s his update:

After spending some time in Indonesia and Thailand, I arrived in Hanoi last week…only to find out that I was actually very sick. So that was a bummer, and I was bed-ridden for several days, but after recovering I was able to explore the city and visit several museums. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the city and all its crazy traffic and bustling people, but after a while Hanoi really started growing on me. To my surprise, there weren’t actually any museums or monuments in the city dedicated solely to the war, so I didn’t get any interviews with tourists as I had planned. However, many museums had sections concerning the war, so I was still able to learn a lot (the Women’s Museum had an awesome and fascinating exhibit on women in war – apparently women made up 20% of the North Vietnamese army, and led many important battles). I was surprised by the hints of propaganda evident in the exhibits and the rhetoric used to describe them; it seems the government is still very much trying to inspire a communist nationalism in the Vietnamese people, even in establishments that attract many foreign tourists.

After about a week in Hanoi I decided it was time to move on, so I booked a night bus (which was just like how I imagined the knight bus to be in the third Harry Potter…) to Dong Ha. Before the bus though, I experienced probably the most terrifying ten minutes of my life on the way to the station: the owner of the hostel I was staying at told me that a shuttle would come to pick me up, but then a guy about my age showed up on a motorbike last minute in the middle of a thunder storm (when it rains in Vietnam, it rains hard) and after a heated exchange between the two I was handed a poncho and shuffled onto the bike. We then drove very unsteadily with all my luggage and snacks (of which there were many) through torrential rains and flooded streets (the water came up almost to my knees in the deepest parts) on  a tiny bike, and when we got to the station I was hurried onto the bus so by the time I got on I and all my luggage was thoroughly soaked through.

I made it to Dong Ha though, which I expected to be tourist central due to its close proximity to the De-Militarized Zone (the border between the North and South where some of the heaviest fighting occurred). Apparently I was wrong. I think I was the only white person I saw the entire time I was there. I received a private tour on the back of a motorbike (not as terrifying, but there were still some scary moments…) which was very interesting and informative, but I only saw white tourists (who I’m trying to interview) once as they were getting into a van for their group tour from Hue. Now I’m in Hue for a night, which it turns out is where most tours to the DMZ depart from. My goal for the night is to hunt down tourists who have been to the DMZ or are planning on going, and if not get a structured interview from them, at least talk to them a bit. I’m not really sure how I’ll do that though – as I’ve found out it’s off-season for tours and hotels so there isn’t much going on around Vietnam. I spotted a DMZ bar when I was walking around today though, so I figure that’s my best bet (if I don’t get any interviews in, maybe I’ll at least fit a game of pool in). Next stop after Hue is Son My, the site of the infamous My Lai massacre. I’ve learned a lot in the past couple weeks about the war and the way tourism functions in Vietnam, but I’m starting to get nervous because I still have no interviews with English-speaking tourists, which is what my research is supposed to focus on. I hope these next couple weeks will work out better for me!

Good luck with your project, Max, and please check in again when you get the chance.


New Ebook: Constructing Qatar: Migrant Narratives from the Margins of the Global System

Hi all,

I’m happy to announce the electronic publication of a new collection of migrant narratives from Qatar. As you may know, I spent a few years teaching at Qatar University, and during my time there I worked with a group of six student researchers on a project that sought to explore and engage the experiences of the labor migrants who build and service the city of Doha. This book is a product of those students’ work: they interviewed labor migrants, spent time immersed in their world, learned about their homes in Asia and Africa, and crafted these stories as a result.

We talked with several academic publishers about the collection, but none felt that their distribution networks would reach our potential market in the Middle East and Asia. As a result, we decided to try ePublishing. Here’s the official announcement, along with links to the appropriate pages at Amazon and SmashWords:

Autumn Watts (Weill Cornell Medical College Qatar) and Andrew Gardner (University of Puget Sound) are happy to announce the electronic publication of a new collection entitled Constructing Qatar: Migrant Narratives from the Margins of the Global System. The principal aim of the book is to provide readers with an opportunity to better understand the complexities of the lives of labor migrants in Qatar. With that goal in mind, the book comprises an introduction by the editors and eighteen migration narratives meticulously reconstructed by student-researchers Elma Atic, Nora Biary, Zaid Haque, Elizabeth Jose, Yogamaya Mantha, and Marwa Saleh. The student-researchers conducted multiple interviews with each of the migrants whose lives are portrayed here, and reconstructed these stories based on those lengthy interviews. In addition to those eighteen stories, the electronic collection includes a selection of portraits by photographer Kristin Giordano and a second photo essay of images produced by the labor migrants themselves. The electronic version is priced at U.S. $2.99, and is available at Amazon  Smashwords, and several other platforms. All profits from the sale of this volume will be distributed to organizations that support outreach and assist labor migrants in Qatar.

Have a look if you’re interested.

Best wishes,