In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

This book is not the one I intended to write. But a series of events made it the one I could. In 1986, with the country on the verge of economic collapse, the Vietnamese government enacted a series of reforms. The process, known as Đổi mới (Renovation), introduced the limited use of market mechanisms to forestall such a collapse. The reforms had an immediate impact on some sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, but not others. Official support for further reforms remained mixed, however, and the success of those already put in place was far from assured. But by 1994, when I first visited the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the country’s slow turn away from the planned economy and toward what is now called the socialist-oriented market economy was clearly under way, if only in retrospect. I traveled the country from south to north over the course of a month, and I was immediately struck by how utterly different it was from Thailand, where I had spent the previous four years working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Vietnam’s long and complicated history fascinated me. So, too, did the speed of the changes taking place, which were palpable to me as I walked down one bustling street after another, eating at every food stall I could. When I left I was already convinced that I wanted to return. I took steps to do so two years later when I began my doctoral work in cultural anthropology at the University of Michigan with a focus on Vietnam. My decision coincided with another one. At around the same time a number of foundations started to provide significant financial support to revive Vietnamese studies, which the Second Indochina War (1959–75), followed by a decade of international isolation, had caused to fall into decline. I was ix Preface a beneficiary of this support; it helped me to complete my coursework and develop the language skills needed to carry out my field research. I went to Hanoi for advanced language training in the summer of 1998, and I used my spare time to make contacts and explore possible research topics. After a series of discussions with the country director of Care International, a U.S.-based NGO, he granted me permission to examine its efforts to promote environmental protection and poverty reduction in two neighboring communes in Thanh Hóa Province in north-central Vietnam. The communes, though similar, had very different experiences following the decollectivization of agriculture, a process that began during the late 1970s, accelerated during the 1980s, and continued through much of the 1990s. I wanted to understand why. So I designed a comparative study to document the role historical memory played in shaping the resource struggles that occurred during decollectivization and in its immediate wake. My focus: how memories of the methods low-level cadres used to mobilize villagers to implement state policies prior to decollectivization affected the ability of Care International staff to persuade them to participate in the NGO’s integrated rural development programs after it. However, a procedural disagreement involving multiple agencies in the United States and Vietnam made it impossible for me proceed as I had planned despite the fact that they had already approved my research proposal. One agency, which oversaw the paperwork related to my grant, informed me that I now had to find a state institute in Hanoi to oversee my research, while another agency, which controlled the funds I had been awarded, said I was forbidden to travel to Vietnam until this requirement was met. Both agencies, while they agreed on little else, notified me that I had six months to resolve the problem; otherwise I faced the loss of my grant. But none of the institutes I contacted by fax and e-mail wanted to oversee my research because we did not already have an established working relationship. As the deadline approached, I grew increasingly anxious that the impasse would end my field research before it could begin. In late 1999, shortly before the deadline, I learned about a Canadianfunded capacity-building effort known as Localized Poverty Reduction in Vietnam (LPRV). Following a series of meetings, the project coordinators graciously agreed to let me carry out my research under their auspices, provided I also contributed to their ongoing activities. The primary purpose of the $4.85 million project was to create Centers for Poverty Reduction (CPRs) at five Vietnamese universities, which could promote bottom-up rather than x Preface...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.