Builders and Users: Education, Modernity, and the Nation through the Vietnamese Library (1887-1975)
Cindy Nguyen

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

Cindy Nguyen’s dissertation examines the cultural, educational, and political history of libraries in Vietnam from 1887 to 1975. How does the library develop as an institution of public education, literacy, and information? In what ways do different political regimes throughout twentieth century Vietnamese history–French colonialism (1887-1954), Vietnamese Communism (1954-present), and anti-Communism republic (1954-1975)—envision the role of libraries in relation to (1) public education (2) control and access to information and (3) modern nationhood? By focusing on the long, complex, and important history of Vietnamese libraries, my research impacts the fields of Vietnamese history, library and information science, and education research. For education research, Nguyen contributes an important and understudied perspective on popular and alternative spaces of learning; also she demonstrates the Vietnamese case of public education and cultural library policy under different political and historical regimes.
About Cindy Nguyen
Cindy Nguyen is a doctoral candidate in the department of History at University of California, Berkeley. She specializes in the cultural and political history of Vietnam, print culture, and knowledge institutions such as libraries, archives, schools, and museums. She approaches history through a critical lens of both “builders and users” to understand the multifaceted roles of library actors (librarians, readers, technicians, administrators) to shape the meaning of libraries, popular education, and literacy in 20th century Vietnam. Her research topic and theoretical approach draws from an interdisciplinary training and work experience—as an area studies specialist, multilingual scholar (English, Vietnamese, French), and digital humanist (information science, libraries, and archive work at Information Services & Technologies at UC Berkeley and the University Archive at MSU). She received her Bachelor’s of Arts at University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Arts at Michigan State University. Nguyen’s research informs and is informed by her art and personal history. Nguyen’s body of work includes award-winning multimedia film, poetry, visual art, and essays on the topics of translation, memory, and feminism ( Her interdisciplinary work bridges the diverse fields of history, technology, education, art, and language. As a refugee from the Vietnam War and English as a Second Language Learner, she is committed to advance the understanding of the complex history and culture of Vietnam as well as intergenerational memory and language. Nguyen has also worked internationally through collaborations with universities and libraries in Vietnam (Fulbright Scholar 2017), France, and the United States. She is committed to advance the mission of education, information literacy, and libraries development, especially within underrepresented communities in Vietnam and the United States.

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