IIAS lecture

Channeling Ho Chi Minh: Portrait of two spirit mediums

Presentation by Prof. Hue-Tam Ho Tai of Harvard University and Dr. Tam Ngo of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany.

Drinks afterwards. Registration required.


Since his death in 1969, Ho Chi Minh has become the object of widespread veneration in Vietnam. The state considers itself the guardian and the only legitimate interpreter of his legacy. However, the state has not been able to exercise complete control over how his life and especially afterlife are interpreted by ordinary Vietnamese.

The Religion of Ho Chi Minh forms part of the resurgence of popular that emerged gradually in the mid-1990s following the adoption of economic reforms and loosening of political control over cultural life. Ho has been deified. His devotees consider him the reincarnation of military heroes and Buddhist rulers and liken him to both the mythical ancestors of the Vietnamese nation and the Buddha of the Future.

In this talk, Hue-Tam Ho Tai will introduce two female spirit mediums who are believed to be able to channel Ho Chi Minh. As such, they enjoy the support of powerful men and attract followers from all walks of life. While they are careful to always assert that they “wholeheartedly follow Uncle Ho and the Party,” the belief that Ho Chi Minh speaks through them subtly challenges the state’s monopoly on the legacy of Ho Chi Minh and hence the moral authority it derives from being its inheritor. 

Hue-Tam Ho Tai is Kenneth T. Young Professor of Sino-Vietnamese History at Harvard University. She is the author of Millenarianism and Peasant Politics in Vietnam (1983), Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (1992) and Passion, Betrayal and Revolution in Colonial Saigon (2010) and numerous articles and review essays. In addition, she edited The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam (2001). She is currently investigating the Religion of Uncle Ho in collaboration with Dr. Tam Ngo of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. 

Dr. Ngo (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany) received her Ph.D. from the Free University in Amsterdam. She is the author, among other publications of: 
The New Way. Protestantism and the Hmong in Vietnam. University of Washington Press.  
[2015] (edited with Justine Buck Quijada) Atheist Secularism and its Discontents. A Comparative Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasia. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
She is currently doing research on the social memory of the Sino-Vietnamese Border War of 1979.

Registration (required)

Please send an email to h.m.van.der.minne@iias.nl if you would like to attend this lecture.