Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Profile: Tôn Thất Tùng

This side path is organized around the life and work of one of the most famous Vietnamese medical doctors, Tôn Thất Tùng. Tùng trained as a liver surgeon and is best known for developing a liver surgery technique. Wartime conditions and state-building needs, however, meant DRV medical doctors had no choice but to focus on military medicine (Goscha 2011). Moreover, the lack of equipment and personnel especially during the early years of the war forced Vietnamese medical personnel to find innovative solutions, including the use of a bicycle to generate electricity for field hospitals.

In late 1946, Tùng left Hanoi to join the resistance in Chiêm Hóa in northern Vietnam, where he and other medical doctors operated a mobile hospital and medical school. Working effectively, Tùng became vice minister of health in 1948. Tùng's role in the Việt Minh's military medical corps and ministry of health of meant that he played an important role in investigating suspected instances of germ warfare during the First Indochina War. In fact, he spent much of the 1950s through the 1980s researching the effects of various forms of environmental warfare and fighting its use.

Over his long career, Tùng made the transition from mapping the health of individual human bodies to mapping the health of the Vietnamese geobody. First diseases caused by poverty during the colonial era and then diseases caused by environmental warfare during the Cold War encouraged Tùng to link the study of bodies and structures. As a medical doctor, Tùng realized that he could not heal his patients without thinking sociologically, historically, and spatially, i.e. without mapping invasions.

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