Accepted Paper:

Ethnic minorities in Vietnam in official discourse: the case of Vietnam Museum of Ethnology  

Author:

Grazyna Szymanska-Matusiewicz (University of Warsaw)

Paper short abstract:

In the paper I would like to consider the matter how ethnic groups living in Vietnam are conceptualized and presented in official discourse, focusing on the case of Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. The following case reflects the overall policy of Vietnamese authorities towards the matter of ethnic diversity.

Paper long abstract:

In the paper I would like to consider the matter how ethnic groups living in Vietnam are conceptualized and presented in official discourse, focusing on the case of Vietnam Museum of Ethnology.

Analyses of museum exhibitions as materialization of colonial discourse of power and dominance were popularized by such ethnographers as James Clifford and Moira Simpson. It is worth considering to what extend this conception is accurate in case of countries such as Vietnam, itself once being a colonized country, but simultaneously involved in relations of dominance and submission with non-Vietnamese ethnic groups, populating the country.

The museum was meant to be an example of modern exhibition, following contemporary trends in museology. However, analyzing the content of presented exhibition we can observe contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, the postulate of "giving voice" to presented people is to some extend fulfilled. On the other hand the ethnic groups are still presented in a kind of evolutionary paradigm. The issue of contemporary changes in these societies is treated in a highly selective way, reflecting the policy of Vietnamese government directed towards ethnic minorities, described by Oscar Salemink as "selective preservation".

The case of Vietnam Museum of Ethnology reflects the overall policy of Vietnamese authorities towards the matter of ethnic diversity. Attempts to fulfill the requirements of modernization and maintaining the authority over the whole society, leads the official discourse into contradiction between meeting postulates of affirmation of ethnic diversity and strengthening the national unity.

Panel W062
Challenges of local and regional cultural politics in Southeast Asia