"Center part of pending sister city agreement between Sacramento and Ho Chi Minh City
In the next three years, UC Davis is expecting to launch the Center for New Viet Nam Studies that will work in conjunction with the pending sister city agreement between Ho Chi Minh City and Sacramento. Proposed by Asian American studies professor Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, the center intends to serve as the educational component of the relationship between the two cities.
Earlier this year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Sacramento and Ho Chi Minh City was signed by representatives from the two cities. Although not legally binding, the document is an agreement for the two cities to increase their cultural, educational, social and economic relations. The document will be valid for five years.
The MOU is a preliminary step toward the establishment of a sister city between the two locations. A sister city relationship is an agreement for economic, cultural and educational exchange between two cities from different countries. Sacramento contains the 11th largest Vietnamese community in the United States and currently holds 11 sister city relationships.
A sister city will be established should the Sacramento City Council vote on it based on the voices of constituents, such as members of the Vietnamese community. The sister city relationship will be finalized once representatives from the two cities each sign a second MOU.
The proposed center will be a site for social science research on contemporary Vietnam and its diaspora population, with a focus on areas of economic and political development, as well as arts and culture. The center intends to move away from known literature about the Vietnam War and instead emphasizes the country’s current global relevance. Valverde envisions the center to be a site for international scholars to research what Vietnam is as a nation and a culture, and what it can become.
“The production of knowledge will not just be useful for academics,” Valverde said. “It will also offer practical strategies for governing bodies to consider […] Vietnam continues to garner global interest from major powers such as the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, Taiwan and other Southeast Asian countries.”
The proposed center plans to feature an online journal, published in Vietnamese and English, edited by undergraduate and graduate students, as well as symposia with guests speakers and artists. If funding continues as expected, the center will be established over the course of three years, requiring an estimated $96,000. During this time, Valverde plans on incorporating more features like the online journal and symposia as the center approaches its completion. The first events are planned for winter 2016.
Darrell Hamamoto, a professor of Asian American studies, sees the center’s social science research as beneficial toward economic relations between the two countries by providing a cultural context and mutual understanding.
“Let’s say a business person, or someone who is majoring in economics or management, they have to know the cultural, the people, the history, the society,” Hamamoto said. “That’s what we’ll provide: the cultural context, cross-cultural comparisons and communications.”
Austina Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Student Association, expressed interest in the academic and cultural aspects of the proposed Center.
“I think it’s a really good idea that [the center] wants to talk about how Vietnam has changed and what modern-day Vietnam is like outside of the war aspects that most people know,” Nguyen said. “I would like to know more about how the research is going to be done because the sources that the research come from are very important. But I definitely want people to know more about Vietnamese culture, especially modern-day Vietnamese culture.”"