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The bureaucratic conflicts I described in the preface made this book possible. Multiple agencies in the United States and Vietnam, despite having already approved my research project—a comparative study of decollectivization and the role historical memory played in shaping the resource struggles that transpired during and immediately after it—suddenly required me to meet several additional requirements before they would release my funds and approve my visa. Since each of the agencies made demands that conflicted with those made by the others, it was impossible to satisfy all of them. The impasse forced me to abandon the project, which I had spent more than a year preparing to carry out. Afterasix-monthsearch,Iwasableto findanothersponsorthat satisfiedthe agencies’ requirements: the Localized Poverty Reduction in Vietnam (LPRV) project, a Canadian-sponsored capacity-building initiative working with the National Center for the Social Sciences and Humanities (NCSSH) in Hanoi and five universities around the country. But once again bureaucratic disputes prevented me from carrying out my revised research plans. This time the disagreements pitted the international, national, and local partners against one another for many of the same reasons featured in the book: how much discretionary power should each partner have to act on its own (autonomy); who had the authority to make what decisions, especially ones that placed limits on the autonomy of others (transparency); and what oversight mechanisms were needed to ensure that everyone followed existing policies and procedures according to plan (accountability). Fortunately, the coordinators of the LPRV project, based in Vancouver and Hanoi, gave me permission to pursue 205 Conclusion another topic, my third: a historical ethnography of the techniques the party/ state used to reduce poverty and eradicate hunger in socialist Vietnam, provided that I did not cause them any problems. I was extremely grateful for the relative freedom they granted me. (Each of them, I later learned, assumed that the other was primarily responsible for supervising me.) Yet their support did not prevent further difficulties or delays due to red tape and, on occasion, district- and commune-level officials, who arbitrarily required me to satisfy other requirements, such as requests for additional “donations” to compensate cadres whose primary task was to monitor my activities in the countryside in exchange for the needed permissions . I gradually realized that these “problems,” which some of my informants called “opportunities” because they enabled them to establish personal connections with officials that could prove useful later, had inadvertently become my fourth research project. The archival documents I read, the secondary materials I reviewed, and the people I interviewed made it clear to me that such problems/opportunities were an inescapable part of everyday life. Moreover, they had a profound and previously unrecognized impact on efforts “to build socialism” in rural areas. Hence I decided to feature them in this book. The next section revisits my argument concerning the politics of mistrust and the paradoxical impact it had on the ability of high-level officials to maintain enough legibility “to guide” local affairs in rural areas. I then return to the practice of emulation, which played a key role in this ongoing struggle against illegibility. While the effectiveness of this practice is debatable, emulation deserves further study for two reasons. First, ongoing emulation campaigns provide us with the means to explore how the socialist-oriented market economy has affected when and how people choose to participate in state-sponsored projects of “self-improvement.” Second, past campaigns, such as those discussed in this book, provide the basis for future comparative studies of the role emulation, and its opposite, dissimulation, has played in other socialist states. The final section describes why it has become both easier and harder to document “the past” and the implications this has for future studies of the efforts “to build socialism” in Vietnam. Revisiting the Government of Mistrust I have detailed in these pages how ideological demands, political pressures, material shortages, social obligations, and technical limitations variously 206 Conclusion affected the Communist Party’s rise to power and the state’s ability to consolidate it over three periods. The first period was the era prior to collectivization , when the forms of documentation used “to build socialism” had yet to be centralized (ca. late 1920s to the late 1950s). The second period was the decades after collectivization when the planned economy required its centralization (ca. early 1960s to the mid-1980s). The third period followed decollectivization, when the emergence of the socialist-oriented market economy contributed to the para-centralization of...


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MARC Record
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