Cultural Studies Colloquium - David Biggs, “Archipelagic Vietnam: Rethinking Nationalism From the Shoreline”

Until recent conflicts over islands in the South China Sea, Vietnam’s history was described in terrestrial terms. Vietnam’s nationalist struggles, we were told, involved epic battles with American and other troops in highland jungles and city streets; and the nation’s territorial expansion from Hanoi happened in two directions: southward and uphill. The sea, as so many history books taught, was a nothing space where foreign invasions began. Vietnam’s geo-body was tied to a Westphalian notion of sovereignty reified in so many books and maps. Real sovereignty in Vietnam, however, was and still is relational. Topologies of trade, commerce, migration and communication have for centuries defined where “Vietnam” begins and so many other cultures and ecologies taper off. Rather than assume a closed model, this talk reimagines Vietnam as an archipelago, a more permeable nation-system of nodes linked by flows of energy, food, people and technology moving from the sea to the mountains and spaces beyond. Drawing from his recently published book, Footprints of War: Militarized Landscapes in Vietnam (Washington, 2018), environmental historian David Biggs conducts an archipelagic history tour along Vietnam’s central coast with stops in the ancient, early modern, colonial and post-colonial past.

David Biggs is a Professor of History at the University of California, Riverside, specializing in twentieth century environmental history with an area focus on Vietnam and Southeast Asia. His first book, Quagmire: Nation-Building and Nature, won the 2011 George Perkins Marsh Prize in Environmental History; and his essays have appeared in such venues as the Journal of Asian StudiesTechnology and Culture and the New York Times. He is currently working on a trans-Pacific history of the mid-twentieth century.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Coastal Interactions

About the Colloquium Series

The Center for Cultural Studies hosts a Wednesday colloquium series which features current Cultural Studies work by campus faculty and visitors. These informal sessions consist of a 40-45-minute presentation followed by discussion. We gather at noon, and presentations begin at 12:15.

Please note that due to increased catering costs, we will only be providing cookies, an assortment of teas, and hot water, but no longer coffee; feel free to bring your own. And in the interest of going green, please bring your own mug! 

See our website or our newsletter for information about this quarter's speakers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Humanities 1 Building, 210
420 Hagar Drive, Santa Cruz, California 95064

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations

Invited Audience

Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Students, Prospective Students, General Public, Graduate Students


Academic, Research




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