Titel: „Sweating buffaloes“ and chaotic archives: Nguyen paperwork and Bureaucratic operation, 1802-1841
Sonstige Titel: „Schwitzende Büffel“ und chaotische Archive: der Schriftverkehr am Hofe der Nguyen und Vietnams bürokratische Vorgänge, 1802 – 1841
Sprache: Englisch
Autor*in: Vu, Duc Liem
Schlagwörter: Nguyen dynasty; Vietnamese history; Political history; imperial archives; manuscript cultures; early modern Southeast Asia
GND-Schlagwörter: Dr. J.E. Brandenberger-PreisGND
Straßburg / Besetzung / Geschichte 1681 / Jubiläum <1981>GND
Erscheinungsdatum: 2020-12
Tag der mündlichen Prüfung: 2020-12-28
This is a story of how written correspondence and paperwork changed the way human beings govern their society, organize their state, and forge their political identity. It reflects the struggle of early modern statecraft in the defining tasks of centralization, bureaucratization, and institutionalization by using practical writings, official documents, and archived paperwork. The Nguyen dynasty had engaged with one of the most important political projects in pre-colonial Vietnam through which emerged the foundation of a centralized state. Unified Vietnam was first established in 1802 under Gia Long Emperor (r. 1802-1820) but heavily suffered from factionalism and regional tensions. The second emperor, Minh Menh (r. 1820-1841), transformed Gia Long's unfinished Vietnam through a massive project of political centralization, bureaucratic institutionalization, and territorial homogenization. He introduced complex correspondence infrastructures, Grand Secretariat (1830), the provincial system (1831-32), and Grand Council (1835).
Most importantly, significant changes came to regional-central communication and the consolidation of inner palace structures. The former created the environment in which paperwork operated while the latter turned the Grand Palace into an influential headquarter of paperwork and decision-making. The centralization of the flows of official documents reshaped both Hue’s power landscape and the bureaucratic mechanisms under which the realm was governed. Gia Long’s military-oriented bureaucracy was an incomplete state-and-territory project where the audience of high-ranked officials (Congdong) played significant roles in delivering central authority. That was the era of the 'politics of Congdong paperwork.' Minh Menh's designs of administrative documents and correspondence reveal the intricate evolutions of the Nguyen administration. Complex governing tasks and large-scale military operations demanded thorough transformations of the inner court. The second emperor showed significant interest in personal rule and recording bureaucratic operations in papers. He demanded frequently updated information and to work directly with memorials. In his view, routine and periodic official reports were indispensable channels of state governance. They were assisted by additional confidential and express correspondence, which was initiated during the 1820s-30s. Thanks to these bureaucratic innovations, Hue entered the 'politics of edicts' and the 'politics of vermilion endorsements.'
Finally, the evolution of paperwork played a critical role in delivering imperial and state authority. The maneuver of Hue's deliberative structure was responsible for governing efficiency and bureaucratic accountability of the state. The success, however, came with no low cost. There are no better metaphors to indicate the Nguyen dynasty’s struggles with paperwork, institutions, and correspondence than 'sweating buffaloes' and 'chaotic archives.' They mirror the Nguyen's fights for centralizing governance and documenting the state between 1802 and 1841. The tasks generated tremendous pressure on the bureaucracy because of underfunding and staff shortages. As a result, official communication, paperwork, and institutional designs captured enormous portions of the society's time, energy, commitment, resource, and imagination with the belief that the more administrative records were at work, the more advanced and accountable the governance became.
On the contrary, the Kafkaesque specter of complex paperwork, as seen in mid-1830s Vietnam, prevented many initiatives of bureaucratic reform. Minh Menh's experiments with paperwork between 1820 and 1841 illustrate the vulnerability of early modern bureaucratic operations in facing the increasing demands of centralizing state authority and documenting state affairs. This challenge is not unique to the Vietnamese but adds a valuable case study to understand early modern statecraft in East Asia better.
URL: https://ediss.sub.uni-hamburg.de/handle/ediss/10148
URN: urn:nbn:de:gbv:18-ediss-107788
Dokumenttyp: Dissertation
Betreuer*in: Vogelsang, Kai
Engelbert, Jörg Thomas
Enthalten in den Sammlungen:Elektronische Dissertationen und Habilitationen

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2020 PhD thesis Vu Duc Liem Southeast Asian History to SUB Hamburg University.pdf91581e59b5db05dad1d149279992b4b519.76 MBAdobe PDFÖffnen/Anzeigen
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