Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, History, Michigan State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Michigan State University
Chinese Migration, Colonialism, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Saigon, 1862-1954

My dissertation explores the migration, settlement, and evolution of the Chinese in colonial Vietnam—a largely forgotten diaspora—and its importance in Saigon's emergence as a global port city. Through 12 months of archival research in Vietnam, China and Singapore and oral histories in Ho Chi Minh City, I will construct the first comprehensive social and economic history of Chinese social organizations and commercial networks; their interactions with the French colonial regime and Vietnamese native; and their shaping of Saigon into an urban center of colonial capitalism and cosmopolitan modernity. I ask (1) How did Chinese migrants and their economic, social, and cultural networks transform colonial Saigon into a prominent maritime port in the South China Sea? (2) How did Chinese interactions with French colonialism and Vietnamese colonial subjects shape the city's cosmopolitan character? What was the nature of this triangular relationship? (3) What did it mean to be Chinese migrants living in cosmopolitan Saigon and experiencing colonial modernity? (4) What are the implications of these issues for the postcolonial emergence of anti-Chinese sentiments and contemporary ethno-nationalism in Vietnam? In answering these questions, I contribute to theoretical and historical debates in Chinese diaspora studies, globalization and cosmopolitanism studies, urban history, and the global history of capitalism by illuminating the global and local confluence of colonial power and the agency of migrants in making cosmopolitan Saigon a crucial node of global economics in the colonized "periphery." In so doing, I challenge nationalist and Eurocentric histories of Vietnam that discount, if not neglect, the role of Chinese migrants in the making of cosmopolitan Saigon and reorient public discourses on Asian globalizations by theorizing new modes of understanding transnational Chinese capitalism.