Call for expressions of interest from prospective paper presenters

ANTHROPOLOGY CONFERENCE CONCEPT NOTE (Draft)

Conference theme: Vernacular Modernity/ Alternative Development Pathways/ Development from Below
Dates and Venue: July 2020 VASS, Ha Noi, Vietnam

Co-hosts: VASS and USSH

Contacts: Nguyen Thi Thanh Binh (VASS), Nguyen Van Suu (USSH), Philip Taylor (USSH)

Deadline for submission of expressions of interest: 23 November 2019 (one week from now).

PURPOSE

Raise the profile of the discipline of anthropology in Vietnam and the profile of Vietnamese anthropology abroad.

Identify, consolidate and cultivate themes of existing and potential strength among Vietnamese anthropologists.

Collaborate and build working relationships with relevant anthropological specialists in Vietnam’s near region.

These aims to be achieved by: 

  • conducting and preparing for publication original research on topics in which Vietnamese anthropologists are strongest
  • forming working groups to discuss research in thematic specialisations
  • presenting papers in thematically-organised sessions with international specialists in a conference in July 2020
  • taking part in intensive exchanges with global specialists in one’s areas of expertise

WHY HAVE A MAIN CONFERENCE THEME?

To identify intellectual commonalities across different topic areas that flow from a shared methodology and common disciplinary principles

To offer the public a coherent, rich and powerful vision of the state of the discipline in Vietnam

WHY THIS THEME?

  • Targets a cluster of stereotypes about supposedly top-down, state-ist, unilineal and homogeneous aspects of politics, culture and society in Vietnam
  • replaces such stereotypes with an empirically-substantiated vision of 'multi-authored' socio-cultural change and development that is driven ‘from below’
  • profiles traditions that are dynamic and enduring and not necessarily fragile or divisive
  • offers diverse genealogies of modernity in Vietnam
  • profiles logics and practices that frequently are derided, dismissed or ignored
  • The concept of vernacular development [or vernacular modernity] provides a stimulating theoretically-informed angle that makes diverse case studies accessible for comparison within the country and comparatively
  • an applied dimension to this topic gives policy makers and social groups stakes in the discussion and the results

SOCIETAL/POLICY SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CONFERENCE

International politics has shown how oft-despised and written-off cultural subalterns have the power to change the course of  events, even in the most powerful nations and empires. These are people who may have been marginalised by development/globalisation. Often they do not make themselves legible to formal classifications, or embody stereotypical or high-status norms of civility or modernity. Their manner of thinking may be considered mythical, parochial, or non-scientific and their worldview may be dismissed as irrational and simplistic. Their motives, practices and methods frequently are informal, with communications conducted in vernacular idioms or minority languages, and thus these ways of being often are invisible or illegible to formal analysis.

These ways of life are not traditional/primitive/outmoded, or ‘survivals’, since they have shaped and have been shaped by contemporary processes; but neither are they conventionally deemed to be modern for they are invisible to policy makers and are dismissed by intellectuals. 

Such people may experience hardship but their way of life is not necessarily unsustainable; they may be endowed with valuable attributes that are conventionally dismissed for they are considered marginal, but they can be extraordinarily powerful. They think and act in unfamiliar ways but their perspective has logic and coherence; they have been written off as losers or obsolete but they are actually the engine that drives societies forward.

They are citizens, albeit subaltern citizens – perhaps deemed the objects rather than the subjects of history - yet they have a voice of their own, walk their own paths, and thereby have changed the world of elites.

Anthropology is a suitable discipline for contributing to the study of vernacular modernity: understanding how people of all stripes make history in diverse ways, often on their own terms. 

WHY GROUP PARERS INTO SUB-THEMES?

  • To identify, consolidate, bring into dialogue, test and refine research that previously has been scattered, illegible, insular and/or obscure
  • To strategically develop research concentrations and thus enable the enrichment and deepening of theoretical, empirical and methodological expertise
  • To create a peer network to assist each-other in publications, supervisions, teaching, research

POTENTIAL THEMES  [These are speculative and to be revised in line with proposals received]

Minority Pathways / Networks

Border-crossing subjectivities: transnational lives, inter-ethnic relations, challenging categories

Spiritual Culture, religious modernities

 Negotiating traditional norms; emergent social identities

 Land and livelihoods

 Medical anthropology 

 Ecological anthropology, belonging, space and place


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