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The nineteenth century Nguyễn court collected weather information on an unprecedented scale. Officials throughout the country were required to keep daily records of the weather and news of emergency weather events, such as violent storms, floods and droughts, were shuttled top-speed by horseback along the ‘postal route’ (đường chạy trạm).
Drawing on insights from phenomenological writing on ‘weathering’ as a means of making and remaking place in a ‘performative ecology of movement’ (Vannini 2012, Ingold 2011), this paper considers how Vietnamese couriers experienced and responded to weather conditions when moving through the country along the Nguyễn postal route. Approaching the postal route from a weathering perspective emphasizes the entanglement of landscape, weather, place and human experience: heavy rain turned roads into muddy swamps, made rivers overflow and broke bridges, which prevented or hindered travel, intense sun scorched sandy roads making the impassable; and strong winds whipped up dangerous waves presenting hazards for boats. Understood as a medium of embodied human experience, weather facilitated certain types of movement and action on the postal route and discouraged others. With varying degrees of success, the Nguyễn court also sought to intervene in the ‘weather-world’ and to transform ‘weather-places’ to make them more conducive for inhabitation and the transmission of knowledge.
This paper argues that weather reporting was an important part of the Nguyễn court’s system of governance and its engagement with the geography of the realm. The Nguyễn postal route not only facilitated the system of weather reporting, it was a source for gaining knowledge about the weather and the territory of the kingdom. By focusing on the process of ‘weathering the realm’, the paper provides fresh insights into how imperial governance and royal authority in nineteenth century Vietnam was wedded to the acquisition and transmission of climatic knowledge.
This will be Katie Dyt's Final Oral Presentation