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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