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Vietnam Update: The Politics of Life – Call for Papers

[ndlr] Appel à communications.

CALL FOR PAPERS

2017 Vietnam Update: The Politics of Life

20-21 November 2017

Australian National University, Canberra

Vietnamese people often tell their foreign visitors that Vietnam is the most secure place in the world. The country has no terrorists, no political disorder, and the police are second to none. Decades of devastating warfare are long-past. Poverty is declining and incomes are rising in a region with good economic prospects. People in Vietnam appear to fling themselves at life’s everyday challenges with intensity and no little optimism.

But Vietnamese today are questioning ends and means, particularly as they relate to human security; they thirst for transparency and reliable ways to assert control over life. In the country and the city, in material, ideological and psychological realms, and at local, national and regional scales, the ability to feel secure is slipping away. This leads to high system maintenance costs and exhaustion as people exert themselves to amass the means and the trust they require to obtain existential security. Increasingly, questions are being asked as to whether life might be lived in a better way.

This Vietnam Update is dedicated to exploring the politics of life in Vietnam. The organisers call for original research papers that address the following sets of questions:

  1. For many Vietnamese, the most significant risks to life come from their own region as neighbours stake claims and leverage power asymmetries in ways perceived to be detrimental to the very existence of the country. Doubts about co-ordinating mutual security through ASEAN co-exist with concerns about the merits of rapprochement with America. Preoccupations with China manifest in anxieties about encirclement, infiltration, collusion, manipulation and incitement. How are such anxieties given voice and how does the government respond? Online criticisms and protests by activists are met with repression, but throughout the country – both within the government and beyond  – debate rages about how to secure the nation. One of the deepest questions is: who is to be trusted with the nation’s security?
  2. The recent censure and demotion of high level leaders for misconduct or poor performance attests to the openly competitive nature of political power. Party leaders continue to warn about the threats posed by ideological and moral degradation, but are there indications that leaders are being selected according to new standards of meritocratic governance? It has become conventional to tie political outcomes to factional power struggles or a contest over the spoils of patronage but to what extent does politics represent a contest between alternative visions for how the country should be governed and how life is to be lived?
  3. Capitalist market relations are central to gaining access to basic life needs formerly obtained through government programs, state enterprises and co-operatives, or via family, community or customary economies. Market logics influence the supply of housing, land, food, healthcare and education, and most government services attract formal or informal user fees. The pursuit of market efficiencies is linked to precarious livelihoods, indebtedness, and widening social disparities. How are such processes experienced and debated within Vietnamese society? Are there attempts to push back against or mitigate the commoditisation of life?
  4. Technology, industry, science and new production and exchange systems have unleashed material plenty and improved life for tens of millions of people. However, doubts about the benefits of headlong modernisation appear in concerns about the harm done by chemical effluents, carcinogens, pesticides and unsafe food, along with urban expansion, traffic chaos and unsafe workplaces. Agrarian intensification, agricultural commoditisation and land concentration have increased productivity but also engender livelihood insecurities and pose existential threats to rural communities and customary ways of life. In what ways are citizens suturing gaps and controlling such risks through mutual assistance, security from below, or deliberative modes of living and being?
  5. For a number of Vietnamese, the material, spiritual and psychological strains of modern life are such that a retreat into simpler modes of living, equated with the past, offers an appealing alternative. At the same time, tradition is blamed for ills as diverse as corruption, excessive drinking, age, gender and ethnic hierarchies, and doctrinaire thinking. As youths study abroad and gain exposure to the cultures of the world, many are led to wonder: what values and institutions work? Do Vietnamese need a state religion, a prescribed traditional or ‘Western’ culture, civics lessons, or democracy to have the means to obtain security and hold each-other to account?
  6. One of the most intriguing developments in the politics of life come from networks of activists who use media, community affiliations and ties to government insiders and resources to vocally and persistently oppose official development projects, land confiscations and foreign investments considered harmful to human wellbeing. Recent actions range from social media campaigns to sit-ins, flash demonstrations, and the capture of public officials by frustrated villagers. In this workshop we are interested to explore whether the politics of material security represents a singular domain in which citizens may significantly oppose or influence government decisions and development directions through engaging in overt political action perhaps in ways not seen previously in Vietnam.

The organisers are seeking proposals for papers on these themes to be presented at a conference to be held at the ANU, Canberra on 20-21 November 2017.

Proposal Submission:
Interested contributors should send their proposals and a one page CV to Philip Taylor by 20 June 2017. Email: Philip.taylor@anu.edu.au

Each proposal should be no longer than 600 words. The proposal should outline how the paper relates to the issues highlighted in the above sets of questions and the kind of research the paper will be based on. Preference will be given to papers that promise a rich analysis and have an interdisciplinary dimension. The conference organisers will then decide which proposals to accept. We will then extend invitations to the authors of the selected proposals to prepare and present their papers to the conference. The organisers also reserve the right to solicit papers, if necessary, from individuals who did not submit proposals.

Funding for travel and accommodation is available and details will be discussed later with each paper presenter.

Paper Specifications:
The paper itself should be submitted 30 days before the date of the conference.

The paper should not exceed 10,000 words and it should include appropriate bibliography and citations. Each paper should include an abstract of 250 words.

Presentation and Publication:
We envisage about twelve paper presentations during a two day workshop in Canberra on 20-21 November 2017. At the Update each author will have approximately 40 minutes to summarise what her/his paper argues and the evidence used.

The conference will also include presentations about recent political and economic developments in Vietnam.

Organisers request the right of first refusal with regards to publishing the accepted papers, which may be included, subject to any necessary revisions to meet publication requirements, in a refereed book or journal collection that we hope will be published within a year of the conference.

For more information on this Vietnam Update theme or questions about paper proposals please contact Philip Taylor (philip.taylor@anu.edu.au).

Vietnam Update Committee: Huong Le Thu; Phuc To; Ashley Carruthers; Kim Huynh; David Marr; Tana Li; Benedict Kerkvliet; Sango Mahanty.

Esther Horat : Market Transformation and Trade Dynamics in a Peri-urban Village. Reflections from a Vietnamese Marketplace [PhD.]

[ndlr] Annonce de la thèse d’Esther Horat soutenue en mars 2016 à l’Université de Zurich. Nous reproduisons ci-dessous le message de l’anthropologue Kirsten Endres posté sur VSG avec son aimable autorisation.

In March this year, Esther Horat successfully defended her doctoral dissertation entitled « Market Transformation and Trade Dynamics in a Peri-urban Village. Reflections from a Vietnamese Marketplace. » Esther was a PhD candidate at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology from 2011-2015. She defended her thesis at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and was awarded a “magna cum laude” (with great praise) by the committee consisting of Peter Finke, Annuska Derks (both University of Zurich), and myself.

Abstract:

Based on twelve months of ethnographic research in the Vietnamese village of Ninh Hiệp, this dissertation offers an account of the various factors that have enabled it to transform into a regional trading hub for clothing and to maintain this position until the present day. The work pays great attention to how traders experience, negotiate, and react to state policies concerning the redevelopment of markets, and, in doing so, how they actively shape the political economy of Vietnam. New modes of governance – consisting of the ambivalent use of socialist and neoliberal ideologies and practices – are a crucial aspect of the study.

This research was conducted against the backdrop of decades of economic reforms initiated in socialist Vietnam in the late 1980s. Ninh Hiệp, a village along the Red River Delta, serves as a site for understanding some of the major structural changes in the region’s formal and informal labor markets and their impact on the lives of traders. In exploring some of the strategies traders employ to cope with the uncertainties of the post-reform period, the dissertation places particular emphasis on the productive side of uncertainties. Not only do traders adapt resourcefully to global capitalist formations and thereby shape the local economy, but they also deepen their social relations when confronted with uncertainties. The dissertation demonstrates how social networks among traders, as well as trust-based relations that shape informal banking and credit systems, are crucial for the functioning of the market. In addition to allowing for transactions without – or at least scarce – capital, social networks ensure the circulation of valuable information and provide access to producers and markets.

Looking closely at the operation and complexities of family businesses, the thesis discusses the dynamics involved in shaping relations and expectations across the gender and generational divide. Rather than analyzing family businesses in terms of efficiency, exploitation, or as an economic strategy of last resort, this dissertation argues in favor of their conception as agents of social change. Finally, this dissertation argues that the notion of morality is central to the lives of traders on three levels: (a) as a strategy for negotiating the boundaries of a moral community, (b) as a government tactic to project a legitimate image of itself and its policies, and (c) serving as an existential function in the face of ambiguities triggered by the socialist and neoliberal economic orders.

Many congratulations to Esther Horat!

Kirsten Endres

L’utilisation d’internet au Việt Nam : octobre 2012 [We Are Social]

WeAreSocial_VN[ndlr] Pour faire suite à l’annonce de l’application du « Décret 72 », voici quelques données intéressantes sur l’utilisation d’internet au Viêt-Nam présentée par le réseau We Are Social de Singapour (seconde édition d’octobre 2012).