Highlanders on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Representations and Narratives

Author: Vatthana Pholsena

Abstract:

The history of the hinterlands of the Indochinese peninsula, astride the frontier between Laos and Vietnam, during the first and second Indochina wars (1946-75) is arguably the least informed of this turbulent period. The aftermath of World War II saw the establishment of revolutionary bases at the junction between southeastern Laos and central and southern central Vietnam in highly strategic areas that were conduits for the “Ho Chi Minh Trail.” This article aims to go beyond conventional diplomatic and military histories of the Indochina wars to examine war from below. In particular, the second half of the article is constructed around the narratives of two female war veterans of ethnic minority origins who conducted most of their revolutionary activities during the Vietnam War along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Particular attention is given to their motivations and wartime lives, linked to their transformation from members of upland populations who not long ago were described as “savages” into “revolutionaries” and “patriots.”


Countries: Indochina

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September 2008
© 2007 ILO/Crozet M.