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The Ironies of Freedom

Sex, Culture, and Neoliberal Governance in Vietnam

by Nguyen-vo Thu-huong

Publication Year: 2008

In the late 1980s, Vietnam joined the global economy after decades of war and relative isolation, demonstrating how a former socialist government can adapt to global market forces with their neoliberal emphasis on freedom of choice for entrepreneurs and consumers. The Ironies of Freedom examines an aspect of this new market: commercial sex.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Out of convention, this book bears one name, but it owes its life to many. Although I bear responsibility for whatever faults you may find with it, I owe my work to so many who rendered their generous assistance along the way. I take this opportunity to acknowledge those debts. ...

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pp. xi-xxviii

Before the heat would define the day one early morning in June 2002 at the center of Ho Chi Minh City, an area still called Saigon by its residents, crowds gathered in front of the old French-built Opera House, which now has reverted to its theatrical functions after various incarnations through Vietnam’s postcolonial history. ...

Part I. Sex for Sale: Entrepreneurial and Consumerist Freedom

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1 The Hooking Economy: Entrepreneurial Choice and Commercial Sex in the Liberalizing Economy

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pp. 3-24

Commercial sex became integral to the Vietnamese economy in the first decade of marketization despite governmental rhetoric about how prostitution was a “social evil.” With the arrival at the new market and its neoliberal freedom to make entrepreneurial choices, Vietnam opened to the global economy. ...

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2 Hierarchy and Geography: Class and National Identity in Sex Consumption

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pp. 25-62

Jean and John Comaroff have pointed out the “neoliberal stress on consumption as the prime source of value” that envisions persons as “consumers in a planetary marketplace: persons as ensembles of identity.”1 Buying sex not only facilitated business connections for entrepreneurial men, but it was also a way ...

Part II. The Real and The True: Governing by Choice and Coercion

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3 The Rise of the Empirical and the Case of Medical Expertise: A Genealogy of Governance

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pp. 65-93

In part 1, I show how neoliberal choice in entrepreneurial decisions and consumption shaped the sex trade as Vietnam marketized primarily from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. In part 2, I examine how the government approached prostitution as a social problem through public health, policing, and rehabilitation measures ...

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4 Governing Passion: Consumers’ Choice and the Production of a Differentiated Citizenry in Public Medicine

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pp. 94-114

In both government public health measures and sex education manuals, the Vietnamese government since marketization directly and indirectly promoted health practices that generate and supervise class and gender differentiated norms in sexual conduct linked to birth and disease control. On the one hand, public health ...

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5 Who You Truly Are: Coercion, Culture, and the Global Imaginary in the Governmental Rehabilitation of Sex Workers

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pp. 115-143

Once a sex worker is arrested by the police, a set of “administrative” government decrees decides her fate. Government Resolution 53/ CP of 1994 reinforces Article 24 of the Decrees for Administrative Transgressions by specifying that “those who have been identified as engaged in selling sex shall be sent to centers ...

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6 What Kind of Power? Specialization of Intervention and Coexisting Modes of Governance

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pp. 144-182

During marketization, the rise of medicine as an expert field of knowledge disciplined different segments of the population through its specialized public health intervention. Public health measures taught urban women of the upper and middling classes to become informed consumers of health services and beauty products ...

Part III. To The Real: Ideology and Cultural Production

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7 From Antigone to the Kneeling Woman: A Genealogy of the Real from Socialism to the Preparation for Marketization

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pp. 185-214

If the first part of this book examines market freedom, and the second explores how the government oversees such freedom, this third part focuses on how the realm of cultural production deals with such freedom and its governance. Governing with the market requires the simultaneous deployment of technologies of rule ...

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8 Love in the Time of Neoliberalism: Ideology and the New Social Realism in Popular Culture

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pp. 215-242

The government has been responding to a “social evil” like prostitution as a symptom of market freedom in the social realm, and it has done so in a way that would promote such neoliberalist freedom in a global economy. In doing so, the government projects ideological visions of self and the social world ...

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pp. 243-258

As Hanoi was preparing for a series of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summits in the latter half of 2006, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology and the Vietnam Revolutionary Museum put on an exhibit from 16 June to 17 December called “Hanoi Life under the Subsidy Economy: 1975–1986.” ...


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pp. 259-296


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pp. 297-320


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pp. 321-336

E-ISBN-13: 9780295989211
E-ISBN-10: 0295989211
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295988504
Print-ISBN-10: 0295988509

Page Count: 364
Publication Year: 2008