This two-day workshop, to be held in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 5 - 6, 2015, is co-organised by Vietnam National University - specifically its University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Hanoi, Vietnam) - and the Sydney Democracy Network at the University of Sydney (Australia). It will be Vietnam's first international workshop focusing specifically on the topic of democracy, its theory, and practices. The main aim, over the two days, is to answer one question: can the case be made for a distinctive Asian democratic theory or for distinctive Asian democratic practices - ones that originated from indigenous/endogenous Asian politics in isolation from the West?
Another main aim of this workshop is to bring international and local Vietnamese scholars of democracy together. Recognising that democratic theory happens outside of the English language, and outside of the languages which enjoy hegemony in the discourse of democracy, we are seeking to create direct dialogue between in this instance Vietnamese and English scholarship on democracy.
This workshop starts from the recognition that no one person or polity has the answer for democracy. Democracy is a world-concept. It is a contested concept and an empty-signifier prone to misuse and abuse in global and national politics. To peel away the veil of hegemony obscuring the concept is to open it to a shared discussion in the world; a discussion that recognises the Others as contributors to, and equal owners of, the democracy of humans (anthropic democracy). International scholars and local Vietnamese scholars will come together as equal partners in a dialogue over democracy where perhaps the only certainty will be that no one is certain about democracy or what exactly makes a practice democratic. Some specific questions, to help answer the workshop's main question, include:
1) Is there a history of democratic phenomena, especially before European contact, in Vietnam or wider Asia?
2) What is happening locally in Vietnam, or Asia, today that differentiates from the practices of democracy in other parts of the world? Specifically, what can the other democrats of this world learn from these differences?
3) Is it possible to articulate that distinct, indigenous/endogenous, understandings of democracy came from Vietnamese or Asian histories?
4) Are there different words (terms, concepts or sayings) in Vietnamese or other Asian languages for democracy or its presumed constitutive elements?
5) How are the futures of democracy articulated in Vietnamese or Asian democratic theory?
6) What can indigenous/endogenous democratic theories or practices contribute to Western-dominated discourses on, or practices of, democracy?
Papers in English will be translated into Vietnamese and Vietnamese papers will be translated into English. Two special issues in scholarly journals will be sought — one in an English journal of good standing and another in a Vietnamese journal of good standing. An edited book, from a university press, will also be pursued in both English and Vietnamese.
Dates and related details
The workshop will take place February 5 - 6, 2015. A tour of Hanoi will be provided gratis to interested participants. A special hotel rate will also be provided to participants interested in staying in the heart of Hanoi.
Dr Jean-Paul Gagnon (Australian Catholic University, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Hai Hong Nguyen (University of Queensland, email@example.com) are kindly inviting interested scholars to send us, initially, an expression of interest by mid-August 2014, so that we can start to confirm attendance; and especially abstracts that try to answer the workshop's questions or that interrogate these questions by October 30, 2014.
We are both grateful to the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi and also to the Sydney Democracy Network at the University of Sydney for agreeing to support this important, if not historic, occasion. We look forward to the opportunity of meeting our Vietnamese colleagues and to the publishable outcomes that will hopeful materialise from this two day workshop.