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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Margherita Zanasi

Dr. Zanasi talks about the upcoming LSU in Vietnam study abroad trip

The Ogden Honors College is heading to East Asia once again, but this time, to Vietnam. Leading the trip is associate professor in the Department of History Dr. Margherita Zanasi.

“We have an increasingly large number of second-generation Vietnamese here around LSU,” Dr. Zansai said. “So I thought it would be good to introduce our students to Vietnam to understand the changing East Asia, in general, not just in China which tends to attract more interest in the media." 

The program aims to place Vietnam at the center of the history of modern East Asia as well as place a special focus on the Vietnam War. Additionally, the program will introduce students to wider issues of economic development in Asia, tensions between regional and global forces, and the transition from communism to market economy.

Dr. Zanasi will be offering two honors classes in Vietnam: one covering East Asian culture and religion and the other Vietnam War, emphasizing the Vietnamese perspective in the conflict.

“There are a lot of courses on the Vietnam War and a lot has been written on it, but mostly from the point of view of the American side,” Dr. Zanasi said. “I think it’s important to better understand the Vietnamese side, especially with today’s improving relations between Vietnam and the United States.”

Students will also visit pagodas and Buddhist monasteries and tour Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. A planned overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay will be especially memorable, she said, since the area is famous for its towering limestone pillars and grottoes. Are you a lover of Vietnamese food? The trip also includes a street food tour of Hanoi’s Old Quarter where students will enjoy the exotic flavors of Vietnam.

A second part of the trip will involve a trek through the country from north to south, visiting the cities of Hue, Hoi An, and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Students will tour the labyrinthine Mekong Delta and rice paddy fields and shop at floating markets. The excursion will end by revisiting Vietnam War’s legacy by navigating through the Cu Chi Tunnels that once symbolized Vietnam’s tenacity in the face of foes that included France and the United States.

Dr. Zanasi’s knowledge of East Asia reaches far beyond Vietnam, said Ogden Honors College Dean Jonathan Earle. “I am beyond delighted that Dr. Zanasi is leading another study abroad trip for our students,” he said. “When I arrived in 2014, I heard so much about her trip to China in our Gateway to China program. This is exactly the type of international experience we place at the center of the honors experience.” China is the topic of many of the classes she teaches and also the subject of her three books, the most recent due for publication next year:

  • Luxury and Frugality: Market and Consumption in Modern China (1500s-1030s),Cambridge University Press (forthcoming)
  • Saving the Nation: Economic Modernity in Republican China(The University of Chicago Press, 2006)
  • Trade and Society Along the Grand Canal in Qing and Early-Republican China(in preparation)

Dr. Zanasi’s doctoral studies focused on Chinese History, but recently she has developed a new interest (both in her research and teaching) in the comparative history of economic thought. Her forthcoming booklooks at two specific ideas: the free market and consumption.

 “The introduction of free market and the expansion of consumption are perceived as being two very important steps in the development of economic modernity in Europe” she said, marking a pattern toward economic modernization that originated in Western Europe as an exclusive product of its particular economic and philosophical environment. “But the book takes it upside down because it actually shows these notions of free market and of positive effect of consumption on the economy emerged in China before they emerged in Europe.”

 She said she is looking forward to sharing her extensive knowledge of East Asia and hopes to expand her students’ understanding of how East Asia has and is changing.

As part of the LSU in Vietnam trip, students will visit Vietnam May 19 – June 17, 2019. For more information on the study abroad program, email Dr. Zanasi at or click here.