Southeast Asia Studies Seminar Program
The MacMillan Center at Yale University
Feb 27, 2013

Statecraft on the Margins: Drama, Poetry, and the Civilizing Mission in Eighteenth-Century Southern Vietnam
Claudine Ang, Department of Humanities (History), Yale-NUS College

In the eighteenth century, the Mekong delta was a site on which an expansionary Vietnamese kingdom crossed paths with a network of Chinese Ming loyalists dispersed along the South China Sea coast. The two groups arrived on this frontier following two distinct trends of migration: contiguous territorial expansion and non-contiguous diasporic settlement. In my talk, I introduce two eighteenth-century literary works produced on the frontier-the first a vernacular Vietnamese play about a misbehaving monk and the second a suite of Chinese landscape poems extolling the scenery of a frontier province-in which divergent Vietnamese and Chinese civilizing projects for the Mekong delta were articulated. These works provide us with insight into concepts of civilization particular to the Chinese and Vietnamese worlds, which focused not only on regulating the people but also on taming the rugged natural landscape of the frontier. The eventual fates of the two literary works, moreover, tell a story of the blurring of the boundaries between the two seemingly distinct worlds that originally engendered their creation.


Claudine Ang is an Assistant Professor of Humanities (History) at Yale-NUS College. While in residence in New Haven this year, she is also a fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center. She received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2012. Her research interests include early modern southern Vietnamese history and literature, Chinese diasporic history, and twentieth-century Vietnamese historiography.

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