Introduction to "Stories and Histories from the China-Vietnam Border"

Hue-Tam Ho Tai, Harvard University
China-Vietnam borderlands. Source: Google Maps.
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Whether on land or at sea, border areas are not just sites of conflict. For the ethnically diverse communities who live at the margins of empires or nations, border crossing is a facet of everyday life. It may involve trade and smuggling, pillaging raids, flight from fighting or from the state, human trafficking, marriage, or family visits. These historical events and trends are often narrated within the confines of national histories. Yet they highlight the fuzziness of national boundaries and the importance of forms of social organization that cut across borders and unite individuals and communities that nations seek to separate and distinguish. Not only does the study of border areas and border crossings “rescue history from the nation,” to borrow from Prasenjit Duara (1995), but it also points out that the highly local can be transnational, and that apparently remote places can be linked to global currents of people, ideas, and commodities...