Opening Reception for “A War of Contradictions: The Vietnam Conflict, 1945-1975”

Join the Libraries for a reception and discussion of “A War of Contradictions: The Vietnam Conflict, 1945-1975,” our Special Collection Research Center’s current exhibit. The discussion, led by Dr. Meredith Lair, Associate Professor, History and Art History, will take place on Tuesday, October 22, from 2-3:30 p.m. in the SCRC Seminar Room (Fenwick Library Room 2400). Light refreshments will be served.

Dr. Lair’s work examines warfare and its relationship to American society and culture, with particular emphasis on how knowledge and memories of the past are constructed and disseminated over time. She is the author of Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War, which examines the non-combat experiences of American soldiers in Vietnam. She finds that the US military relied heavily on consumerism and material abundance to maintain soldier morale, a phenomenon that continues to the present day. Her research on this topic continues, especially the role that culture can play as an instrument of war. Her current projects examine Vietnam War soldier photography and legacies of the Vietnam War, in particular how ideas about veteranhood have been constructed and changed over time. Professor Lair also developed content and wrote the exhibit script for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation’s Vietnam Era Educational Center, the first permanent museum about the Vietnam War in the United States.

Professor Lair’s teaching interests include war and American society, post-1945 US social and cultural history, the Vietnam War, and historical methods. She also serves as director of Mason’s Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) Master’s program.

About the Exhibit: “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” This quote, attributed to a U.S. Army officer in February 1968, illustrates the contradictions inherent in the Vietnam Conflict. Seen by some as a noble fight to stop Communism and help a developing country establish democracy, and others as interference in a war of national liberation and a destructive waste of money and human life, Vietnam remains one of the more polarizing topics of the twentieth century. This was evident in the words, actions and writings of politicians, journalists, authors, clergy, and others. The conflict, which spanned 30 years, from September 1945 to May 1975, was responsible for 1.5 million to 3.5 million civilian and military deaths. One of the major flash points of the Cold War, Vietnam was, and still is, a subject about which many have differing opinions.

This exhibit, curated by Bob Vay, SCRC’s Digital Collections and Exhibition Archivist, features items from Special Collections Research Center’s Rare Books, University Archives, and manuscript collections.  

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