The Politics of Vietnamese Craft: American Diplomacy and Domestication by Jennifer Way (Professor of Art History, University of North Texas, Dallas Forth Worth, USA)
Jennifer Way's study The Politics of Vietnamese Craft uncovers a little-known chapter in the history of American cultural diplomacy, in which Vietnamese craft production was encouraged and shaped by the US State Department as an object for consumption by middle class America. Way explores how American business and commerce, department stores, the art world and national museums variously guided the marketing and meanings of Vietnamese craft in order to advance American diplomatic and domestic interests. Conversely, American uses of Vietnamese craft provide an example of how the United States aimed to absorb post-colonial South Vietnam into the 'Free World', in a Cold War context of American anxiety about communism spreading throughout Southeast Asia. Way focuses in particular on the part played by the renowned American designer Russel Wright, contracted by the US International Cooperation Administration's aid programs for South Vietnam to survey the craft industry in South Vietnam and manage its production, distribution and consumption abroad and at home. Way shows how Wright and his staff brought American ideas about Vietnamese history and culture to bear in managing the making of Vietnamese craft.