Participation of children in the Vietnam War, 1955-1975

Nguyen, Mai Anh. 2022. Participation of children in the Vietnam War, 1955-1975. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis argues that child soldiering is a socially embedded phenomenon. To this end, I analysed child soldiering in the context of the Vietnam War, interviewing former child soldiers about their lives prior, during, and after joining the Viet Cong guerrillas. Deploying an interpretative framework drawing on Bourdieu’s relational sociology, I found that in Vietnam, children’s social context - in particular, the prevalence of Confucianism and communism - consistently guided children's motivations and shaped their experience. The findings of this thesis demonstrate that while ideology and sociocultural practices formed the experience of Vietnamese child soldiers, they were able to negotiate and navigate them in ways that demonstrate considerable agency. The findings of this thesis have the following implications. Firstly, this thesis challenges the 'victim perpetrator' binary, through which child soldiers are often represented. Rather, it underlines that children have agency as deeply social and political actors, who shape and are shaped by their environment. In doing so, this thesis contributes to our understanding of not only child soldiers’ experiences, but also of children in militarised contexts, and specifically the role that everyday social practices play in militarisation of childhood. Secondly, these findings contribute to the literature on the Vietnam War, uncovering new evidence of the many roles that children played in the Viet Cong. The insight that the broader social environment impacted child soldiering in Vietnam can be deployed in future research on child soldiering in under-studied geographical and cultural contexts. Such an understanding will enhance our general knowledge of the phenomenon of child soldiering and the variety of ways in which children participate in war. In doing so, this thesis contributes to broader re-imagining childhood as a complex, nuanced, and dynamic phenomenon.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


child soldiers, childhood, Vietnam War

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

14 Sep 2022 10:35

Last Modified:

18 Oct 2022 12:33


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