Bradley Camp Davis, "Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands" (U Washington Press, 2017)


Recent years have seen an upsurge in studies asking questions about, and in, borderlands. The topic is certainly not new to scholars of mainland Southeast Asia, but as Bradley Camp Davis shows in Imperial Bandits: Outlaws and Rebels in the China-Vietnam Borderlands (University of Washington Press, 2017), plenty of work remains to be done on the parallel processes of border and state formation in the region. Drawing on Chinese, Vietnamese and French written sources as well as hundreds of interviews with villagers in the uplands of Yunnan and northern Vietnam, Davis tells the story of a half-century of violence, trade and taxation at the hands of competing armed groups; of their alliances and wars with lowland states, and of the bandit as symbol in nationalist and local histories and memorials today. Bradley Camp Davis joins New Books in Southeast Asian Studies to discuss the malleability of bandits and banditry, Black Flags and Yellow Flags, the merits of oral traditions in study of history, and the place of the imperial bandit in movie and museum. You may also be interested in: Pamela McElwee, Forests are Gold: Trees, People and Environmental Rule in Vietnam Geraldo L. Cadava, Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland
Nick Cheesman is a fellow at the College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University and in 2016-17 a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. He can be reached at

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Nick Cheesman

Host, Interpretive Political and Social Science; sometimes contributor, Southeast Asian Studies
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