Researching Vietnamese Politics
In the the spring 2018 issue of Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Martin Gainsborough’s “Malesky vs. Fforde” offers to adjudicate a supposed dispute between two highly cited scholars of modern Vietnamese politics. Purportedly drawing on the philosophical traditions of ontology and epistemology, Gainsborough claims that we can gain traction as a field by looking closely into the preexisting belief systems that scholars bring to their research questions. Along the way, Gainsborough questions the plausibility of my own work and claims that I smuggle “liberal” values into my writing on Vietnam. In this response, I discuss five dimensions in which Gainsborough and I disagree and why they matter for studying Vietnamese politics. I do so by contrasting my choices with Gainsborough’s scholarship (both in “Malesky vs. Fforde” and other work), illustrating how Gainsborough’s research decisions lead him to faulty and damaging conclusions about my work.
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