Absent maps, marine science, and the re-imagination of the South China Sea 1922-1939 – a seminar by Dr Gerard Sasges (Wed, 21 October 2015)

Speaker: Dr Gerard Sasges (Department of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Today, seven nations have maritime or island claims in the disputed South China Sea. This presentation historicizes the claims of one of the dispute’s participants, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It argues that cartographic representations of its territory have their origin in the period of French rule, and locates a key moment in the formation of an Indochinese –and later Vietnamese –space encompassing the South China Sea in a series of four maps that represented research carried out by the colonial Institute of Oceanography. By recreating the biographies of these maps, the presentation reveals their origin in a contingent interplay of multiple factors including global scientific networks, economic development, imperial defense, and personal research agendas. The presentation suggests that attention to the biographies of maps could be an effective means of deconstructing and denaturalizing many of the territorial claims that drive the dispute in the South China Sea today.

About the speaker
Gerard Sasges joined the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at NUS in 2012. He completed a Ph.D. in the Department of History at the University of California at Berkeley in 2006. From 2002 to 2011, he directed the University of California’s Education Abroad Program in Hanoi, Vietnam. His work uses the concept of development to explore the intersection of science and technology, economics, society, politics, and culture in colonial and post-colonial Vietnam. He is the author of the collected volume, It’s a living (NUS Press, 2013) and his articles have appeared in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies, South East Asia Research, the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, and Modern Asian Studies.