Here is a new publication on ethnic minorities in Vietnam:
Minorities At Large: Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam Beyond the State Frame
Special Issue of the Journal of Vietnamese Studies
Volume 3, Number 3, October 2008
Edited by Philip Taylor
Representing a new approach to ethnic minorities in Vietnam, these essays challenge the prevailing “carceral” conception of Vietnam’s minorities as territorially circumscribed, disciplined subjects. This new research demonstrates, to the contrary, that ethnic minorities have been active in the transformations of their worlds. The essays situate contemporary minority transnational networks in the context of older translocal affiliations, identities and livelihood strategies. The enduring anthropological preoccupation with official classificatory projects is questioned; instead attention is given to popular identifications in circulation, and transition, among ethnic minorities and their proximate others.
I have a paper in the collection, co-written with Stan B-H Tan of the National University of Singapore. The paper is called “Beyond Hills and Plains: Rethinking Ehtnic Relations in Vietnam and Thailand.” It takes the form of a conversation between myself and Stan (drawing on the many conversations we had during Stan’s time at the ANU). Here is a brief extract from the closing section:
So, from this conversation we could probably conclude that it is important to recognize that neither cultures nor states are fixed entities-they are constantly being formed, modified, and negotiated. This is a particularly important insight in the uplands of Southeast Asia, where a strong geographical and ideological distinction between the hills and the plains can underpin a sense of implacable difference. Going “beyond hills and plains” involves recognizing that the uplands can be simultaneously a volatile site – where differences lead to conflicts – and a middle ground – where differences converge in new social formations. This needn’t distract us from the reality of power differentials. But it can remind us that power relations are played out through specific interactions and that human creativity and ingenuity means that there are many surprises in store when we approach these interactions without the conceptual shackles of overused binary frameworks.