The question of how northern Vietnamese culture and society have interacted with those of East Asian is a long standing one. Scholars such as Alexander Woodside, Emmanuel Poisson, and Liam Kelley have analyzed textual and administrative influences that China had on Vietnam. Jamie Anderson and Brad Davis have looked at the borderlands between Northern Vietnam and Southern China. Michele Thompson has written about exchanges of plants, materia medica, and medical knowledge as well as the ecological zones of this region. And Li Tana and others have looked at the watery space of the Gulf of Tonkin.
Studies placing the Vietnamese of the north in their Southeast Asian context are fewer. Christopher Goscha has studied how communist party members and revolutionaries circulated throughout Southeast Asia. He has also looked at the debate over Vietnam versus Indochina in revolutionary geographies. And Christian Lentz has recently placed the world historic battle at Điện Biên Phủ in its local context.
This side path considers the place of northern Vietnam through its representation in cartographic maps. The procession of pages suggests a Vietnamese imaginary initially shaped by a Sinosphere spatial imaginary. Then, reoriented by colonial experience, Vietnamese intellectuals began to place themselves in maps of France and its colonies. Finally, the nation, and the Vietnamese geobody, have played their dominate roles in forming spatial imaginaries. While the cartographies shown in the path all continue to coexist, the trend through the twentieth century among Vietnamese has been towards a Viet-centric spatial imagination. Empires remain but they are for the most part absent from cartographic representation—with the exception perhaps of the Vietnamese empire.
As you consider mapping and mobilities, consider the relationship of these two processes. They may seem to exist in tension: maps define and solidify, while mobility destabilizes. Yet, the two processes have been inextricably intertwined. On the one hand, maps could not be created without movement and exploration. There was the physical movement of the explorer and the material and symbolic flows that happened through knowledge networks. Starting in the colonial era, airplanes aided this mapping. They also created aerial views that, as Sakura Christmas and David Fedman note, elided the violence they enabled. On the other hand, understanding, and therefore engaging in, movement was difficult if not impossible without some kind of map. These maps could be official, state created maps or they could be unofficial and personal, from individual mental maps to communal song lines to airplane routes. So mapping and movement have been two complementary, intertwined processes.