Accepted paper:

Between cooperation and resistance - mobile street vendors in Hanoi


Lisa Barthelmes (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Germany)

Paper short abstract:

In my paper I will show that mobile street vendors in Hanoi employ a range of strategies and tactics that range from subtle acts of resistance to covert forms of cooperation when dealing with local policemen.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I critically examine the concept of 'everyday resistance' as a conceptual tool to analyse state-society relations in Vietnam by presenting the ethnographic example of mobile street vendors. Despite various bans and hostile state policies since the 1990s, mobile street vendors continue to exist in large numbers on Hanoi's streets. Scholars have been mainly conceptualizing this phenomenon as resistance both in the Vietnam context and elsewhere. Even though 'everyday resistance' offers a promising framework, I argue that acts of resistance only constitute one aspect of how street vendors deal with the local state and that a more thorough analysis is needed if we want to fully understand socio-political processes on the streets of Hanoi. For example, street vendors try to establish informal networks with local officers. These strategies of cooperation show that complicity may exist next to more resistive acts. However, the classical framework of 'everyday resistance' leaves little room for contradictory beliefs or mixed emotions, let alone seemingly paradoxical behaviour on the side of the 'subordinates'. In my example I will show that mobile street vendors' interactions with the local state consist of different strategies and tactics that range from evasion techniques and moral claims to complicity. I argue that it is necessary to take into account the ambiguity of resistance and the subjective ambivalence of such acts when talking about state-society relations on the ground.

panel P21
Resistance and complicity