Natalie Newton – A queer political economy of ‘community’: Gender, space, and the transnational politics of community for Vietnamese lesbians (les) in Saigon

[ndlr] Message de Daniel C. Tsang concernant la thèse de doctorat en anthropologie de Natalie Newton sur l’homosexualité féminine au Viêt-Nam. La thèse est en accès libre sur “ProQuest open access”. Message publié sur le site du Vietnam Studies Group, le 16 mars 2013.

Heartfelt congratulations to Natalie Newton – newly minted (2012) Ph.D in Anthropology from University of California, Irvine, for her pioneering study of lesbians in a rapidly developing Vietnam. She offers a sympathetic look into an otherwise-academically neglected subculture while analyzing critically the impact of NGOs. Her dissertation challenges not only liberal notions of the role NGOs play in building civil societies in the developing world but also strikes at conventional views on the globalization of queer identities. She offers a brilliantly contextualized analysis that overarching models of globalization tends to ignore.

Thanks to Natalie, her dissertation is now available on the ProQuest open access site, PQDT Open, where the full-text of her work can be freely downloaded:

She thanks several academics who are VSG members in her acknowledgements but I am sure we will agree that she, rather than any of us, deserves the the credit for this truly path-breaking work. After all, chapter 5 won the Kenneth Payne Prize in 2012 for graduate work in queer anthropology from the Association for Queer Anthropologists, a division of the American Anthropological Association. Her research was also funded by the Fulbright-Hays Foundation, UC Pacific Rim, Center for Asian Studies (UCI), UCI Department of Anthropology, and the James Harvey Dissertation award.

Dan (Daniel C. Tsang)

© 2012 Maika Elan
  • A queer political economy of ‘community’: Gender, space, and the transnational politics of community for Vietnamese lesbians (les) in Saigon by Newton, Natalie Nancy, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2012, 471; AAT 3547300


This project is an ethnographic study of how the globalization of LGBT rights through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) interfaces with existing Vietnamese lesbian gender, sexual subjectivities, and community projects that are “hidden in plain sight” in Saigon. Vietnam is one among five “communist-party led” countries, although Vietnam is associated with rapid post-war economic growth and investment opportunity as a kind of “emerging Asian tiger.” Scholars have tracked how these postsocialist socioeconomic changes have facilitated the emergence of new sexual and gender subjectivities in Vietnam. Simultaneously, the global LGBT human rights movement has gained increasing international precedence, especially with the United Nation’s first resolution to protect “sexual orientation and gender identity” as a universal human right in 2010. This study argues that Vietnamese lesbians (self-identified as les) navigate the contingencies of local and global “invisibility” as a community in Saigon in ways that challenge fundamental structures of the NGO-ization of the global LGBT movement. I argue that many Vietnamese les projects do the work of civil society through what I call a queer political economy of ‘community,’ outside of and in spite of the global LGBT movement.

This is the first ethnographic study of Vietnamese female homosexuality. This study triangulates 21 months of ethnographic data from 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009-2010 in Saigon, video- and audio-recordings of les events, 75 recorded interviews, and Vietnamese popular media. I critique methodological “homo-orientalism” that shaped my research design studying a community that “doesn’t exist” to many institutions. This study is among the first to shed light upon Vietnamese “gender” (giới tính) as a complex gender and sexual subjectivity, which challenges conceptions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” used in the global LGBT movement. The les projects highlighted in this study–such as the les -exclusive café, les sport championship, and les charity events–show how prior research on postsocialist civil society may be inadequate to encompass les community formation in relation to the State and the global LGBT movement. This research captures key political and cultural tensions in the growing global LGBT human rights movement, as it assimilates ever more sectors of the developing world.

Table of contents:


  • CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1
  • CHAPTER 2: Ethnography of a Community that ‘Doesn’t Exist’: 59

Homo-orientalism and the politics of methodology in my project on Vietnamese les community

  • CHAPTER 3: Lesbophobia and Negative Community Formation: 111

‘Trendy les,’ the State, and Vietnamese womanhood

  • CHAPTER 4: Les Sexual Subjectivity: 174

Giới tính as a gender/sex construct and Come out for les

  • CHAPTER 5: Contingent Invisibility: 211

Space, community, and invisibility for les in Saigon

  • CHAPTER 6: Contingent Visibility: 246

Vietnamese NGOs and the globalization of LGBT human rights

  • CHAPTER 7: In the Name of ‘Les Community’: 304

How les do the work of civil society through a queer political economy of ‘community’?

  • CHAPTER 8: Conclusion 369

APPENDIX A: Contemporary Vietnamese government structure in relation to NGOs 412
APPENDIX B: Timeline of VNGO work leading to LGBT human rights projects 413
APPENDIX C: Sharing Information in Action (SIA) organizational flow chart 415
APPENDIX D: International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) homepage 416
APPENDIX E: Lesbian Games League (LGL) accounting of 2010 games 417
APPENDIX F: Conference Paper: ?Friendship, Family, and Feminism: Transnational Feminist Analysis of the Lives of Les in Hanoi and Saigon? (Newton 2007) 420
APPENDIX G: Conference Paper: ?Les is more: Challenges with Lesbian (les) Inclusion in Vietnam?s LGBT Rights Organizing (Newton 2011) 432
APPENDIX H: Conference Paper: ?Space performativity: Vietnamese lesbian gender and Community space in the production of neoliberal subjectivities (Newton 2012) 445

Source : Vietnam Studies Group

Citer ce billet
indomemoires (2013, 17 mars). Natalie Newton – A queer political economy of ‘community’: Gender, space, and the transnational politics of community for Vietnamese lesbians (les) in Saigon. Mémoires d'Indochine. Consulté le 22 mai 2024, à l’adresse