Put quite simply, this project hopes to use clothing as a means to foster cross-cultural empathy and understanding between Vietnam and South Korea. It will take national dress as a starting off point and the main focus of aesthetic exchange between the two cultures. Understood as what the other side wears, and as the sartorial symbol of that other side, national dress is the outer shell of appearance that can most easily be worn, shorn or even exchanged. Whether it is the Vietnamese ao dai, the Korean hanbok, or even the more currently trendy street fashion spreading across the globe from the streets and runways of Seoul, national dress is something one can consciously inhabit, and which can allow a direct, empathetically powerful assumption of another point-of-view, another mode of being.
The New Việt Nam Studies Initiative based at the University of California at Davis, will quarterback this joint project composed of many parts and players, all working towards the common goal of fostering artistic and scholarly exchange between Vietnam and Korea. The New Việt Nam Studies Initiative brings together scholars, industry experts, government officials, activists, and artists to lend their knowledge of the many dimensions that comprise contemporary Viet Nam. New Việt Nam Studies, or the study of the economic reconstruction and cultural renewal of Viet Nam, will help move this country beyond the major conflicts of its recent history to chart its own course into the future.
Caroline Valverde (UC Davis)
Michael W. Hurt (Korea National University of the Arts)
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