Contested Territory

Ðien Biên Phu and the Making of Northwest Vietnam

Christian C. Lentz

View Inside Price: $35.00


April 23, 2019
352 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
23 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300233957
HC - Paper over Board

The definitive account of one of the most important battles of the twentieth century, and the Black River borderlands’ transformation into Northwest Vietnam

Historians regard the Battle of Ði?n Biên Ph? in 1954 as the conflict that toppled the French empire in Indochina and triggered the decline of colonial rule in Southeast Asia. This new work of historical and political geography ventures beyond the conventional framing of Ði?n Biên Ph?’s history, tracking a longer period of anticolonial revolution and nation-state formation from 1945 to 1960. Examining everyday struggles over agrarian resources such as food, land, and labor, Christian Lentz argues that a Vietnamese elite constructed territory as a strategic form of rule—a product of powerful, ongoing socio-spatial processes. Engaging newly available sources from Vietnam’s National Archives, as well as documents from the French military and other overseas archives, Lentz offers a novel way to conceptualize territory as a contingent outcome of grounded and embodied spatial contests.

Christian C. Lentz is associate professor of geography at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. His research focuses on politics, environments, and agrarian studies in Southeast Asia.

"A brilliant, original work that makes a valuable, ground-level contribution to our historical understanding of a major event of the global twentieth century."—Ben Kiernan, Yale University, author of Vi?t Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present

"Emplotting the history of Ði?n Biên Ph? into the story of Vietnam's multiethnic Northwest, Christian Lentz poses questions about space, power, and territory that will stay with readers long after the final page."—Bradley Camp Davis, author of Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands

"This masterfully-researched book offers an innovative approach to our understanding of how people and places once considered marginal became integrated into Vietnam’s national project and how its state territory was produced."—Oscar Salemink, University of Copenhagen

"An extraordinary achievement of historical and political geography as well as agrarian studies"—Emily T. Yeh, author of Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development

"In this definitive study of Ðiên Biên Ph?, Christian Lentz brilliantly illuminates issues of territory and territoriality, processes of nation-building, contests over land and labor, and relations between local peoples and the state."—Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Harvard University

"Developing theories through the field and archives, Lentz compellingly demonstrates the mutability of territorial arrangements. The emphasis on grounded struggles adds a crucial dimension to the process of making territory."—Stuart Elden, author of The Birth of Territory

"At long last, a deep history of Dien Bien Phu that takes us beyond the conventional narratives and hagiographic tropes. Based on exhaustive research and adept deployment of theory, Contested Territory will be required reading for anyone interested in the Vietnamese revolution specifically and the fraught construction of nationalist spaces more widely."—Lien-Hang Nguyen, Columbia University

"This political ethnography of territory-making on the frontiers of an emergent Vietnam takes us on a front-seat ride through processes of state formation and agrarian transformation.  Set in the decades preceding an iconic war, it contains lessons for scholars of Southeast Asia and beyond."—Nancy Peluso, Henry J. Vaux Distinguished Professor of Forest Policy, University of California, Berkeley
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