As one of the last of my career chapters begins (local rap legend,
male stripper, salesman, journalist, novelist, magazine publisher, international studies professor, novelist, Walmart greeter) I enrolled in a PhD program in International and Area Studies at Pukyoung University in South Korea.
I would have liked to study somewhere else, preferably warmer (climate and intellectual-wise) but I went and started a magazine and I’m kinda tethered to the peninsula for awhile. (I should’ve had some sort of porn/productivity filter set up to allow more porn and less productivity).
When considering where to point my now knowledge-hungry noggin, I at first thought I would study China. I can’t imagine many IS majors in this region don’t first consider this imposing mass on the mental landscape of ‘what the hell am I going to spend the next few years submerged up to my frontal lobes in.’ I eventually passed on the Big C –mainly because it’s been done, is being done and will soon be over done.
Granted, I want to be an academic scholar and that drives my pursuit, but I also have to think about job marketability. On top of that, there is the consideration of a language I want to learn and a place I want to spend a lot of time. Couple all that with picking an area of study where I can contribute something new to the field.
That’s when I decided on Vietnam.
And here I sit in Da Nang, about 20 days into my trip, on the side of a dirt road in front of a new $20-a-night 8-story hotel on a puddle-filled dirt road about 100 meters from China beach with a rooster and a hen pecking at the ground a few feet in front of me. (There could not be a more appropriate metaphor for what I have thus far seen of the world’s 56th largest economy and its 7% annual growth rate –but that’s for another time in what will no doubt be years of writings on the subject.)
This trip was intended to get a feel for Vietnam and see if it was a field of study I could throw myself into for the next decade or so. I can say with confidence that yes, it is.
The scholarly study of Vietnam as it emerges from communist-run
shit hole underdeveloped country to a quasi-capitalistic regional player is relatively sparse. There’s Carlyle Thayer and Martin Gainsborough, both of whom I have been reading sporadically in between bowls of Bun Thit Nuong, and a few others, but outside of those guys and a scattered field of scholars, not a lot is out there Vietnam specific.
That leaves much room to contribute to the building of the scholarly record of the country. On top of that, I love the food, the language is Romanized, the
women are lovely people are interesting and the potential is all there to expand academically.
The language, while having the advantage of being easy to read, is going to be a bit tricky, as the pronunciation is a mix between crow-cawk and melodic verse. So far I have learned some basics and it’s kinda fun.
And so the (dirt) road begins as I lay forth the intellectual pavement. I hope you will tune in here from time to time as I write about this interesting place as well as getting back to my Idle musings on the rest of the world.