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Nation-Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta

By David Biggs

Publication Year: 2010

Published by: University of Washington Press


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Foreword: Nation-Making in the Mekong Mire

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pp. ix-xiv

In 1962, a relatively unknown reporter named David Halberstam arrived in South Vietnam. For the next two years, he wrote a series of articles for the New York Times depicting the failings and corruptions of a regime that the United States was seeking to defend, using aid and advisors, from what Washington perceived as a growing Communist threat. President...

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pp. xv-xviii

Books are only partial reflections of the many conversations, experiences, and supportive relationships that nurture them to life. From 1993 to 1996, Volunteers in Asia, a nonprofit organization that sends college graduates to teach English in several Asian countries, including Vietnam, afforded me my first opportunities to explore...

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pp. 3-22

In October 1879, just after the peak of the Mekong River’s annual floods, a French gunboat entered a deteriorated canal on a survey mission to chart a waterway that once linked river traffic on the Mekong to sea traffic in the Gulf of Siam. Since 1867, the Vĩnh Tế Canal had formed part of French Cochinchina’s border with Cambodia, and for another decade, France’s brown...

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1. Water’s Edge

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pp. 23-52

French colonial rule in Indochina began in 1859 after a series of violent engagements on the water. After their show of gunboat diplomacy near the Vietnamese capital in Ðà Nẵng Bay unraveled into a near defeat, the French fleet retreated from the heavily protected central Vietnamese coast. On February 17, 1859, the French fleet recorded...

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2. Water Grid

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pp. 53-90

The colonial dredging program expanded rapidly in the early 1900s, resulting in a rapid boom in population and unprecedented environmental changes from land reclamation in the swamps of the Mekong Delta. Of all the lands cleared and reclaimed for rice, the Gressier Estate developed into one of the delta’s largest, most technologically...

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3. Hydroagricultural Crisis

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pp. 91-126

When the Great Depression reached Indochina in late 1930, landowners and tenants alike suffered from a severe drop in rice prices. The price of Saigon No. 1 polished grain slid from a peak of $13.10 (piasters per 100 kilograms) in 1930 to $3.20 in 1934. Relative to other commodities—rubber, tin, corn, and cotton—rice lost...

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4. Balkanization

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pp. 127-152

The first indication of the problems that the French were to face in their bid to regain control of Cochinchina from the Việt Minh was that they returned prepared to fight on land instead of water. On October 22, 1945, a thousand men of the French Expeditionary Corps Second Armored Division under the command of General Jacques...

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5. Modernization

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pp. 153-196

The negotiated end to the First Indochina War at Geneva in July 1954 brought in its aftermath a rapid expansion of American activities south of the seventeenth parallel through both military and civilian channels. The broad array of military and civilian efforts sponsored by foreign governments to create a client state (an endeavor that diplomatic...

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6. American War

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pp. 197-226

The arrival of American troops in Vietnam in 1965 inaugurated one of the bloodiest engagements of the Cold War; it also triggered a surge of writing on the conflict that has yet to abate. As a literary genre represented in many languages, the events of the war form the backdrop in many memoirs, novels, and films in which authors and protagonists strive...

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pp. 227-236

Building the nation” (xây dựng nhà nước) has remained a central priority for the Vietnamese government in the delta region since 1975. As with many new projects, however, older environmental and legal problems persist. Today, as in past eras, there is still one fundamental problem in the delta: finding solid ground. Today’s nation builders are...


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pp. 237-270


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pp. 271-288


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pp. 289-300

E-ISBN-13: 9780295801544
E-ISBN-10: 0295801549
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295990675
Print-ISBN-10: 0295990678

Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 778468913
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Quagmire

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mekong River Delta (Vietnam and Cambodia) -- Environmental conditions.
  • Water resources development -- Mekong River Delta (Vietnam and Cambodia).
  • Nation-building -- Vietnam.
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