Margaret Bodemer


Research & Teaching Interests

  • Cultural History
  • Public History and Museum Studies
  • Vietnam Studies
  • Asia Studies
  • History and Memory
  • History of Race

Contact Information

About Margaret Bodemer

Using ethnographic, historical and critical approaches, I am interested in a variety of applied and intellectual questions regarding culture, history and identity. An interdisciplinary scholar, I teach Asian Studies (History Dept.) and American cultural history at Cal Poly. In addition to teaching, I am active in many projects relating to promoting Asian Studies, as well as research and publishing in my interest areas. I have conducted ethnographic and archival research on popular religion and memory in Vietnam as well as Vietnamese communities in the U.S., as well as research on museums and the history of anthropology. I have been studying Vietnamese and traveling to Asia since my undergraduate years at the University of Washington’s Jackson School for International Studies. Since then, I have been very interested in the languages, cultures & histories of Asia and I have traveled through Southeast Asia (especially Vietnam) and East Asia. Nearly a decade spent in Honolulu at the University of Hawai’i has nurtured my interest in the histories and cultures of Oceania (Pacific Islands). From my own experiences abroad and in different communities, I encourage students to study abroad. In 2019, I led the first Cal Poly student group to study abroad in Viet Nam through a Cal Poly Global Program and look forward to continuing this for years to come.


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Hawai‘i Mānoa (2010)
    • Dissertation: Museums, Ethnology and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Vietnam
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (2004)
  • B.A., International Studies (Southeast Asia) & History (minor), University of Washington (2000)


  • Mandarin (Beginner)
  • Vietnamese (Advanced Reading, Writing, Speaking)
  • German (Intermediate Reading and Speaking)
  • Korean (Beginner)
  • Spanish (Intermediate)

Courses taught

  • HIST 206 American Cultures
  • HIST 310 East Asia Cultures and Civilizations
  • HIST 316 Modern East Asia
  • HIST 319 Modern Southeast Asia
  • HIST 409 Vietnam at Home and Abroad
  • HIST 419 Modern Southeast Asia
  • HIST 440 Topics and Issues in U.S. History
  • HIST 443 Topics and Issues in Asian History
  • HIST 477 Topics and Engagements in Public History: Museums, Memorials and Politics
  • WLC 310 Cultures of Viet Nam (summer)
  • WLC 310 Cultures of Asia (summer) 

Grants, Honors & Awards

  • Program Development Grant, International Programs, Cal Poly
  • Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, for Vietnam
  • Foreign Language & Area Studies (For Vietnamese)
  • John F. Embree Fellowship

Selected Service Activities

  • Subject Matter Expert, “Carrying Culture: Viet Nam” course curriculum, developed with Ger Thao for the University of Hawaii Center for Southeast Asian Studies, K-12 professional development course, 2022
  • Faculty Leader, Cal Poly Global Program in Viet Nam (first Cal Poly Global Program to Viet Nam), 2019 - present
  • Chair, Viet Nam Studies Group, Association of Asian Studies, 2018-2021
  • Manuscript Peer Reviewer, Journal of Heritage Studies
  • Peer reviewer, Oxford University Graphic History series
  • Co-organizer, “Multiracial Identities and Experiences,” Inclusion Teach-In, Cal Poly, 2019
  • Discussant, with Katya Cengel, Cal Poly Authors Series, “Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back,” Kennedy Library, 2019
  • Organizer, Shusenjo Comfort Woman documentary, with filmmaker Miki Dezaki, CLA, 2019
  • Senator, Representative for Part-Time Faculty, Cal Poly Academic Senate, 2016-17, 2017-18, & 2018-2019
  • Faculty Advisor, Vietnamese Language and Culture Roundtable, 2016 to present, Cal Poly
  • Organizer, “Ghost Tape” film screening with filmmaker Sean David Christensen, 2018

Selected Publications

  • “Using Personal Narratives to Reposition and Reimagine “the Chinese American Experience” in American History and Culture.” Chinese History and Perspectives, San Francisco: Chinese Historical Society of America, 2018
  • “Surveying Southeast Asia with the Newest Edition of “Southeast Asia in the New International Era” by Robert Dayley. Teaching Resource Essay, Education About Asia, 22(2) Fall 2017: 68-69.
  •  “Fieldwork On Two Wheels, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Ride” In At Home and in the Field: Ethnographic Encounters in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Suzanne S. Finney, Mary Mostafanezhad, Guido Pigliasco and Forrest Young, eds. 47-55. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2015.
  • “Making Ordinary People Actors in National History: ‘Hanoi Life under the Subsidy Economy,’” in Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 35(2), p. 56-67, Summer 2010, University of Helsinki
  • Faces, Voices and Lives: My Experiences in Building a Museum for Communities.Nguyen Van Huy and Margaret B. Bodemer. Hanoi: The Gioi Publishers and Vietnam
  • “Some Thoughts on Museum Anthropology at the VME,” In Faces, Voices, and Lives: My Experiences in Building a Museum for Communities, Nguyen Van Huy & Margaret B. Bodemer. Hanoi: The Gioi Publishers and Vietnam Museum of Ethnology (2008).
  • “Rằm Tháng Bảy:” Offerings to Wandering Spirits in Contemporary Vietnam,” Asian Anthropology, v. 4 (2005), pp. 115-136.

Selected Talks

  • “Toward a More Inclusive History of World War Two on the Central Coast 
    and Why Inclusive History Matters,” California State Parks, WW2 History Exhibition Opening, April 2022
  • “Telling Lives in Asian Studies: Auto/Biographical Narrative as Rhetoric, Technique, and Pedagogy,” Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Washington DC, March 2018
  • “Centering Southeast Asian Perspectives in the Teaching of Southeast Asia; A Methodology,” Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute 2017 Lecture Series, University of Wisconsin Madison, 2017
  • “Active Learning for the Intro to Cultural Anthropology Classroom,” in Panel: “The Crowd-sourced Classroom: Reasserting Relevance in Anthropological Course Design, Abroad and at Home.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, 2013.
  • “Romancing the Field: Nostalgia about “First Fieldwork” Experiences among Ethnologists in mid-century Northern Vietnam,” History of Anthropology, American Anthropological Assn. Annual Meeting, San Francisco, 2012.
  • “The Development of Anthropology in Vietnam through Periods of Colonialism, Revolution, and Globalization”, College of Liberal Arts Faculty Brown Bag Series, Cal Poly 2012.  
  • “Vietnam’s Postwar Subsidy Era in History and Memory,” Asian Studies Minor Brown Bag Series, Cal Poly, 2010.
  • “Genealogies of Vietnamese Ethnology,” In the George Stocking Symposium in the History of Anthropology, American Anthropological Assn. Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 2010.
  • “Making Ordinary People Actors in National History: The Politics of Memory in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology Exhibit ‘Hanoi Life under the Subsidy Era’,” In “Remembering Like a State: Memory, Agency and the End/s of National Publics.” American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 2009.
  • “Museums, Anthropology and the Work of Representing Culture in Contemporary Vietnam: Genealogies of Museums and Anthropology in Colonial Indochina,” In “Missionaries and Museums, Imperialists and Nationalists, State Needs and Cold-War Politics: Anthropology in East and Southeast Asia,” American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Pacific Division conference in Waimea, Hawai‘i, 2008.
  • “Asia-Pacific Cultural Patterns: Vietnam and Polynesia,” Research report, Dak Lak Provincial Museum, Buon Ma Thuat (delivered in Vietnamese), 2007

Professional Memberships

  • Association of Asian Studies (AAS)
  • Vietnam Studies Group (VSG)
  • Society for East Asian Anthropology (SEAA)
  • American Association of Anthropology (AAA)

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