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Department 1

Political Science


A source of national shame can be the perception that one’s nation is intellectually inferior to other nations. This kind of national shame can lead not to despair but to a sense of national responsibility to engage in creative self-renewal and to create national identity from scratch. An exemplar of someone who recognized and engaged with this kind of national shame is Nguyễn An Ninh (1900–1943), an influential Vietnamese anti-colonial intellectual in French colonial Vietnam. Ninh’s account of national shame challenges existing assumptions in political theory, namely that national identity requires national pride, that national shame comes from bad actions towards outside groups, and that national responsibility means responsibility for those bad actions. Postcolonial and decolonial literature have tended to attribute any perception of inferiority on the part of the colonized to “internalized inferiority,” and to assume the existence of an indigenous “original” culture that colonizers destroy, overlooking the fact that natives themselves sometimes questioned the existence of “original” culture. Ninh shows that colonized people can be ashamed of lacking intellectual culture on their own terms and be anti-colonial at the same time.




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