Work In Progress Seminar with Dr. Michitake Aso


Topic: Floods and Storms, Scalpels and Livers: Looking for Climatologists and Medical Doctors in Vietnam
Speaker: Dr. Michitake Aso

For many reasons, getting access to information in Vietnam is not always a simple task and doing historical research there can be both a very rewarding and frustrating process. Historians everywhere, but especially in societies such as Vietnam, have to be equal parts detective and diplomat. In this talk, I reflect on initial findings from my current research. The first strand of this research is on the history of climate in Vietnam. How governments and individuals view natural disaster management can reveal a lot about the relationship between the two and I am interested in how people were governed in the Red River Delta in post-1954 socialist Vietnam. The second strand of this research is on intellectual networks in the twentieth-century socialist world. Personal documents left behind by Vietnamese medical doctors point to surprising ways in which socialist experts travelled, mentally and physically, through the Cold War era. I will also reveal some of the trials and tribulations of my research.

The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.