Organized Panel Session
In recent years, new works by Vietnamese and foreign scholars have drawn more attention to changing regional identities in Vietnam. These works have reshaped understandings of the nation through focused studies of smaller, more ecologically bounded regions: Central Highlands, Northwest, Mekong Delta, etc. Nationalist teleologies, both of the failed Republic of Vietnam and the victorious Socialist Republic, are still easily recognized and often reified in these regional studies, but histories of state-building at the micro level often follow very different paths. Here the presence of unique landscapes, land claims, buildings and non-human species occupies a much larger share of narrative space; and locally powerful microdynamics often appear bearing little resemblance to the visions of state-builders. At this micro level, buildings, swamps, churches and river islands contain largely unexplored, internal stories that, like palimpsests, record layers of past events but may also feature potent symbols of lost futures, counter-narratives and alternate states. The papers in this panel use a micro lens to explore southern Vietnamese state-building as localized to sites with different geographies, social histories and ecologies: Saigon's "Rung Sat" (Assassins' Forest); Central Highland lands lost to lowland settlement, river islands in the Mekong Delta and the Republic of China's two embassy buildings in Saigon before 1975.