Call for Applications: Training Program on "Urbanization and Social Change in Contemporary Rural Vietnam"

We are pleased to announce a call for applications for an Advanced Training Program on:

Urbanization and Social Change in Contemporary Rural Vietnam

Sponsored by the Institute of Anthropology, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), Hanoi, Vietnam and the Harvard-Yenching Institute

Held at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), Hanoi from June 2-11, 2018

Application Deadline: Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Program Description
Application Form

Program Introduction

Formerly an agricultural society which was colonized for a century and experienced three decades of war and several decades of building socialism, Vietnam first implemented its Doi Moi policy in 1986. This series of reforms aimed at transforming Vietnam from a centrally planned, government subsidized socialist economy to a socialist-orientated market economy. Beginning with experimental reforms in the late 1970s the new policies assigned rights in farm land to individual households and liberalized the economy, opening it up to foreign markets. Thanks to each household being given incentives to produce, as well as changes in production methods, natural resource management, land use and the opening of markets, Vietnam transformed itself from a country that had suffered prolonged food shortages to one of the leading exporters of agricultural products in the world, and a global model for poverty reduction. Studies of Vietnam after Doi Moi have revealed dramatic changes in economic structure, family and lineage, gender relationships, cultural and religious life as well as a widening livelihood gap between different groups, regions and ethnicities.

Change in culture and society in rural areas has accelerated due to the recent process of urbanization, modernization and integration. In the delta regions of Vietnam, Doi Moi has been associated with great changes in the cultural and social life of Vietnamese villagers.  The return of the household economy, the enhanced diversification of household incomes, and trading activities have helped improve the lives of people, thus reducing poverty levels.  However, the open market economy also entails many traditional moral values being replaced by new values in line with changing social, economic and political relations.  Social differentiation is becoming increasingly clear.  To counter a breakdown in social relations, and the anxieties and uncertainties created by the market economy, some have returned to traditional rituals and religious practices. At the same time, people did not fully restore traditional practices, but drew on a common reservoir of memories and experiences of familiar patterns to build new forms in order to address contemporary issues.

Rural areas on the outskirts of cities have experienced major changes, owing to urban expansion. Typical rural farmhouse, one-story houses with gardens and outbuildings surrounded by fences or walls, have been replaced by multistory houses which are very similar to those found in inner-city neighborhoods.  Outside the old village’s limits, agricultural land has given way to a new urban landscape marked by construction of new industrial/commercial spaces. By applying the state’s right to allocate and appropriate land for the purpose of “national defense, security, national interest, public interest, and economic development,” local governments have reallocated agricultural land to developers. The loss of agricultural land has disrupted family life cycle plans for the education of children, current and future employment and retirement. The expansion of the city in the countryside has brought new residents into the space of villages, increasing density, environmental problems and local government issues. It also destroyed a social basis of village cohesion in shared agricultural work, the way in which villagers relate to each other, the sense of community, of belonging to the village.

Studying social change in rural communities under the impact of the Doi Moi in general and of recent urbanization in particular has become a popular topic among young Vietnamese researchers from various disciplines in the social sciences and humanities such as anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, history, and other related disciplines. While many students are eager to explore processes of change in rural communities, they feel that they lack a systematic framework for analyzing both rural transformations and the urban transition. Vietnamese social scientists are eager to foster sustained discussions on emerging theory and methodology related to urbanization and social change. Currently, the limited command of English and other foreign languages among many Vietnamese graduate students makes it difficult for them to engage ongoing international scholarly debates. Despite their extensive empirical knowledge on these topics, Vietnamese students and researchers also face difficulties publishing their own work in international publications. 

In view of this, the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Institute of Anthropology, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences are collaborating on an advanced training program on “Urbanization and Social Change in Contemporary Rural Vietnam”.  By providing young Vietnamese scholars exposure to a variety of theories and methods for analyzing rural transformations and urban transition, the program aims to strengthen the development of contemporary Vietnamese social science.

The program is scheduled to be held from June 2 to June 11, 2018 at the Vietnam Academy of Social Science’s building, Hanoi. This program will invite scholars from the United States, New Zealand, and Asia to present on alternative social science theories and methodologies, as well as cultural interpretations of urbanization and social change in agrarian and transitional societies generally and in Vietnam specifically. During the course of the program, instructors and students will divide into groups for roundtable discussions. Through an open competitive admissions process, we will select up to 20 young faculty members and advanced doctoral students from universities and research institutions throughout Vietnam to participate in the program.  Each student’s research proposal will receive directed guidance from faculty instructors and will be put in interdisciplinary dialogue with their peers.

After the program, the program’s selection committee may invite papers for a published volume on urbanization and social change in contemporary Vietnam.

Application and Admission                        

The workshop is open to younger faculty members, post-doctoral fellows and doctoral students who are dedicated to the study of urbanization and social change in Vietnam. The program plans to accept up to 20 official trainees and a small number of auditors.  All the trainees will be provided with food and accommodation.  Trainees from outside Hanoi will be provided with a transportation subsidy.

Applicants must meet the following qualifications:

All students must be dedicated to the study of urbanization and social change in Vietnam and affiliated with universities or research institutes in Vietnam.  This program is also open to Vietnamese students studying in other parts of Asia.  Students in other parts of Asia who have fluent Vietnamese will also be considered.

  1. Trainees must be under 40 years old (born after January 1, 1978)
  2. Students must be proficient in both Vietnamese and English and be capable of reading academic materials and discussing academic issues in both languages. Applicants should present evidence of their English proficiency such as language test results, overseas educational certificates, etc.

Workshop focuses:

The lectures and workshop discussions will primarily focus on the following topics:

  1. The Making of an Urban Landscape in Asia
  2. Aspirations, Urban Governance, and the Remaking of Asian Cities
  3. Pathways to Poverty and Prosperity of Rural Southeast Asia
  4. From Rural to Urban: Urbanization in Southeast Asia
  5. Rural Transformation and Urbanization in China
  6. Urbanization and Rural Transformation in Vietnam
  7. Fieldtrip to a village in the Red River Delta

Group discussion facilitator: Dr. Nguyen Cong Thao, Institute of Anthropology, VASS

Application and Admission Procedures:

  1. Applicants should submit an application letter and supporting documents (such as a list of Vietnamese and/ or English publications, Vietnamese and/ or English research plan, two recommendation letters) via email (to no later than April 10, 2018. [Download application form]
  2. The Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Institute of Anthropology will review all applications and send out admission notices via email by April 20, 2018.
  3. Applicants are expected to reply with confirmation of attendance within 10 days of receiving the admission notice. Failure to confirm will be considered a decision not to attend and admission may be offered to alternate candidates. A confirmation of attendance will be taken as a promise to attend the entire workshop and adhere to the rules and regulations of the Workshop.