Self Immolation Post 9

For this week’s research, I have encountered a scholarly article from the online database JSTOR. The article is from 1967, and was authored by a woman who was in Saigon in 1963 immediately following the immolation. The article discuss the photograph itself, and how it impacted the United States, and specifically the American public. The article discussed the Vietnamese perspective on the immolation as well as the American reception. According to Marjorie Hope, the author, there was in essence a melting pot of religions in Saigon in the 1960s, and while the majority of the country (close to 80% as other research has shown me) claimed to be Buddhist, many of those cited as having Buddhist beliefs also closely adhered to Confucianism and Taoism. This is an important side note when discussing the South Vietnamese perspective of the immolation, which was not very different from the American perspective according to Hope. Up until Thich Quang Duc’s immolation, there had never been a historically documented Buddhist religious immolation in Vietnam. Therefore, the importance of Duc’s fiery sacrifice lied in the fact that it gave way to a wave of demonstrations to follow in his example. Hope also discussed the conditions under the Buddhist religion that allow for a monk to burn himself alive; there are only two. According to Buddhist principles, a monk may only set himself on fire in self-sacrifice (usually when near death anyway) or in protest to protect Buddhism. Therefore, Duc was permitted by Buddhist principles to light himself on fire in protest.

This article is extremely helpful in my research for several reasons. First, it gives me a counterbalance between the American perspective of the photograph, and the Vietnamese reception, which will be a nice and unexpected blend. Also, the article discusses Buddhist principles and fundamental beliefs that I plan on incorporating into my paper when I discuss the lack of American understanding of Vietnamese culture and religions. Finally, Hope discusses the different blends of religion in Saigon in the 1960s, and provides information I had not formerly come across. The unique blend of religions amongst a large Buddhist population helps further explain the Vietnamese perspective on the immolation, when comparing it to that of the American reception.


Summer 1967: “The Reluctant Way: Self Immolation in Vietnam” by Marjorie Hope

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