Among the Divinities: Law and Literature in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Trinh Luu
Comparative Literature
UC Berkeley

This project examines what socialist law and literature owe to each other, and how both can shore up or strain the party-state. Addressed to an interdisciplinary audience of law and literature theorists, Southeast Asia scholars, and researchers of postsocialist modernity, this project offers a new interpretative frame for a key corpus of Vietnamese fiction, demonstrating the striking but previously unrecognized link between law and literature under state socialism. It focuses on the last quarter century, when Vietnamese legal and literary discourses converged against the backdrop of a liberalizing economy, to argue that the expansion of socialist law radically shaped late twentieth-century Vietnamese letters, including diasporic fiction. In four body chapters, the project reconstructs crucial yet neglected developments in Vietnamese law, as well as examine the ways Vietnamese authors create characters that turn to the law to stake their claims. These characters represent the socialist legal subject long overlooked by the scholarship on postsocialism as well as the interdisciplinary field of law and literature, which has seldom moved beyond the Anglo-American legal scene.