The Truth About Territory | National Humanities Center

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The Truth About Territory

July 17, 2020

Holtz, Breanna (Social Studies Teacher, OR)

Territory; Imperialism; Ethnicity; History of Vietnam; Maps;

Over the course of the National Humanities Center Institute on Contested Territory: Southeast Asia 1945-1975 through the National Endowment for the Humanities, I learned about the contributing factors to the definition of territory. For instance; how territory is defined, claimed, argued about, and taken away. Territory is far more than just a physical space that a leader governs and taxes. Territories are full of people from different backgrounds, religions, experiences, and ethnicities. Southeast Asia, and Vietnam in particular, is a place where many local powers and foreign governments have tried to establish their mark and expand their own territory to fulfill their imperialistic agenda.

The map that is shown is a map of South Vietnam and the different ethnic groups that reside within. There are three umbrella ethnicities, with multiple ethnicities within each umbrella. When I first looked at this map, I was fascinated that all of these ethnicities are present in South Vietnam. After closer analysis and further learning about territory, it began to become even stranger to me that a foreign power would have the audacity to try and take when there are so many interests at play. Many colonial powers considered their interests alone without the thought of how they were carving up locations primarily in the Global South. The idea of territory, then, becomes much harder to describe. It also becomes much harder to figure out to whom the territory belongs. The perspective of the people who live in a particular space are frequently at odds with those who come in and try to make the space theirs. My understanding of territory as something that can be fought over and “won” is complicated by the idea that just because an area is titled something or is officially run by a leader, does not mean that the territory belongs to that person or group of people.


History / Political Science / Territory / Imperialism / Ethnicity / History of Vietnam / Maps /

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