UC Riverside professor presents research on militarized landscapes for the CSUF Vietnamese Program

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UC Riverside associate professor and environmental historian David Biggs spoke about his two decades worth of research on the effects of warfare on militarized landscapes in Vietnam at the Pollak Library Monday. (Katie Albertson / Daily Titan)

War impacts people for maybe two or three generations, but it leaves a footprint on the landscape through militarization for stretches of hundreds or thousands of years, according to David Biggs.

As part of its inaugural speaker series, the CSUF Vietnamese Program invited Biggs, associate professor of history at UC Riverside and an environmental historian, to the Pollak Library Monday night.

Biggs presented his research on militarized landscapes like those after the Vietnam War in Central Vietnam, which he gathered during his two decades spent overseas.

“The country and the society of people who have lived through warfare, this war in particular, is something that has very personally touched me through my family, my in-laws, my parents and their relatives,” Biggs said. “It’s very much a personal journey. That’s sort of the other side of it that motivates me.”

Biggs said he is finishing the manuscript for his second forthcoming book about the environmental impact of military occupation in Vietnam.

“Militarization, or just military processes of organization, does not simply mean that a military force comes and occupies the place,” Biggs said. “Militaries do a lot of other things that non-military people do. They rent land, they sell land, they use land, they pollute land and they clean up land.”

Wendy Nguyen, a junior child development major and Vietnamese studies minor at CSUF, said one of the main things she learned from Biggs’ talk was how the Vietnam War affected its citizens years later. She said Biggs discussed how even to this day, chemicals left over make it harder for people to grow food and trees on the land.

With Monday being his first visit to the CSUF campus, Biggs said he was open to the possibility of future collaborations between Fullerton and UCR with Vietnamese studies. Biggs said UCR has around 10 graduate students doing work in Vietnam at the Ph.D. level.

“I would love to see more communication and possibilities for bringing students and bringing people to talks and having our students coming here,” Biggs said.

Sarah Grant, an assistant professor in CSUF’s division of anthropology, thought Biggs’ role as a guest speaker left a lasting impression on students in attendance.

“It’s great when you have a student who can walk away from an hour and a half and have a much stronger understanding of this historical period that we all think we know a lot about,” Grant said.

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