Nguyen Thuy Trang (PhD) is a Lecturer at Hue University of Education in Vietnam. She has an MA and PhD in Vietnamese Literature from Hue University of Education. Her research interests are Vietnamese literature and culture, comparative literature, ecocriticism, intertextuality, feminism, existentialism, postmodernism, semiotics, and myth criticism. E-mail: nguyenthuytrang@hueuni.edu.vn


Changing Forests in Vietnam’s Southwest Border War: A Study of The Wasteland by Suong Nguyet Minh

Abstract: War and deforestation are essential topics in global studies. There is no denying the causal link between war and deforestation in Southeast Asian countries. This paper focuses on the conceptual shift of the meaning and symbolism of the forest in Southeast Asian culture during the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia. Suong Nguyet Minh’s The Wasteland is a novel set in the wild forests of northwestern Cambodia, where the Vietnamese and Pol Pot’s armies fought battles between 1978 and 1979. In this novel, the author outlined the oppositions, contradictions, and causalities in the thought and behavior of indigenous people in relation to the forest. Since ancient times, the forest was a source of nourishment as well as the guardian deity that protected humans. In many ways, the community worshiped and revered the forest, a relationship that was expressed through customs, beliefs, livelihoods, social culture, and politics. When war broke out, humans destroyed forests and violated other cultural-natural entities in the forest ecosystem. From the interdisciplinary perspective of cultural theory and ecological criticism, this paper points out the fundamental changes undergone by forests during this period. Through the study of Suong Nguyet Minh’s novel, it focuses on the myths of the sacred forest and the harm caused by war on people, human values, and nature.
Keywords: deforestation, ecocriticism, Suong Nguyet Minh, Vietnamese novel, war