“Good Morning, Vietnam!” The discursive construction of nationhood in the War Remnant Museum wall-texts


When the tourism industry is operatively organized by governmental institutions, it seems that the destination is commodified in ways that are ideologically constructed so as to ‘educate’ tourists to perceive them as having a historically different identity. This seems to be what happens when visiting the War Remnant Museum (WRM) in Vietnam. The WRM is a war museum, in Ho Chi Min City, containing exhibits related to the Vietnam and Indochina wars in a series of themed rooms; they include graphic photography accompanied by wall-texts, in English, Vietnamese and Japanese, covering the effects of such chemicals as Agent Orange andother defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs and other war atrocities. Since, in some guidebookswritten for an international Western audience,we readthat the Cold War is dealt with by looking at the US with a benevolent eye, there seems to be some dissonance between what the Cold War is, how it is described in guidebooks and what is told about the WRM.

The purpose of this study is to analyse the discursive construction of Vietnamese identity through the descriptions of war in the wall-texts found in the WRM. More specifically, this study aims to investigate how the WRM frames Vietnamese identity construction and how this can be inscribed in the tourist experience. This corpus-based methodological approach (WordSmith Tools and WMatrix) is grounded in critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 1989, 1992, 2001, 2006, 2014). What seems to emerge from this investigation is that the Vietnamese war, as depicted by the WRM,isnot simply the other side of the coin. Reality is filtered through anideological lens of political interpretation usedby the Vietnamese which frames discursive processes and strategies that establish the social order and power relations in a useful way in the construction of a strong national identity to be reproduced in WRM wall-texts. Such an analysis can provide useful insights intomultifaceted aspects of the institutional discourse(s) related to the construction of a national identity and at the same time linked to the commodification of war.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v26p259

Keywords: CDA, Corpus Linguistics, dark tourism, institutional political discourse and tourism, ideology


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