The Gender of Labor in Privatizing Vietnam
Time & LocationSession 4
Wed 15:30–17:00 Room 1.204
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- Chasing Shadows: Gender, Development and Corruption in Vietnam's Borderlands Kristy Kelly Columbia University
Women’s intersectional social, political and economic positions in society shape their experiences with, definitions of, and strategies for dealing with corruption (Bjarnegård, 2006; Dollar et al 2001; Ellis, Manuel and Blackden 2006; Seligson 2006; Swamy et al 2001). Nevertheless, the gender and corruption literature tends to devalue these experiences. This paper aims to fill this gap by using the case of ethnic minority women’s shifting relationship to land (and land management institutions) along the China-Vietnam border in northwest Vietnam to investigate the relationship between gender, development and corruption. As women seek to maintain access to, control over, and profits from farming and tourism from their land, they are increasingly required to negotiate regimes of petty corruption, or the everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials and community leaders (Andvig and Fjeldstad, 2001). Women deal with petty corruption most visibly through their daily interactions as they try to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments, and land management agencies. Managing petty corruption – or what many call “chasing shadows” – is rarely captured in formal measures of corruption, or in anti-corruption campaigns. When it is, data suggests that men are more likely to be asked to pay bribes (Pring 2015), while women are more likely to fall victim to sexual extortion (Hossain, Nyamu, Musembi and Huges 2010). A second stream of literature tends to promote women as “political cleaners” (Goetz 2001) who can be rallied to political and organizational leadership to fix corrupt institutional practices and clean-up dirty network organizations. However, a review of experimental evidence indicates that “women are not necessarily more intrinsically honest or averse to corruption than men” in the laboratory or in the field (Frank et al 2011, 68). Rather, the attitudes and behaviors of women concerning corruption depend on institutional and cultural contexts in these experimental situations (Alatas et al 2009; Alhassan-Alolo 2007; Armantier and Boly 2008; Schulze and Frank 2003). This suggests that a further understanding of the gendered institutional and cultural contexts that differently shape men’s and women’s experiences with corruption is needed. While development and humanitarian aid organizations have begun to focus on addressing the complexity of women’s experiences, the scholarly literature has yet to emerge. This paper is a first in developing the links, and in the process, I suggest a framework for studying corruption as a gendered institution. I do so through an examination of the strategies women develop as “mothers, wives, daughters, and female heads of households” to negotiate with local bureaucrats as they promote family and enterprise interests in ways designed to delimit the risk of corruption.
- Moral Economic Networks Through Agricultural Production Strategies of Single Mothers in a Rural Area of North Central Vietnam Cam Ly Vo
Nguyen Tuan Anh University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Hanoi
Based on an anthropological and sociological study in Yen Thanh district, Nghe An province, Vietnam, this paper explores the strategies by which single mothers are able to maintain agricultural production – the main livelihood in this area. This paper addresses three main points. First, concerning the difficulties of single mothers in agricultural production, the paper examines the significant features of this single mother group, including low education level and skills, high average age, and poor health. These features are obstacles to their agriculture-based livelihoods. Second, the paper reveals single mothers’ strategies in response to these obstacles, relating to accessing agricultural land and labor. Regarding agricultural land, the single mothers are observed to enlarge their land area depending on their network of relatives and neighbors. Many single mothers borrow agricultural land from relatives and neighbors in order to improve the economic circumstances of their household. Regarding labor, many single mothers also ask for support and exchange labor with relatives and neighbors. This is a useful strategy for single mother households, which are usually labor constrained, to meet needs in the processes of agricultural production, especially in transplanting and harvesting. From these practices, the third point of the paper confirms the importance of kinship networks and neighborhood networks in the economic lives of these single mothers. In other words, the study reveals the importance of moral economic networks to rural life among marginal groups in North Central Vietnam.
- Women’s Careers in Vietnam as Belonging to Communities of Practice Eva Fuhrmann Universität zu Köln
Cutting across the themes labor, mobility and care, in this presentation I show aspects of female careers in Vietnam by focusing on women’s entrance points to occupations. The presentation is based on interviews with women in a rural commune of Northern Vietnam, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, of various vocational backgrounds and age, conducted during an exploratory field trip.
The current state of research suggests that female life courses in Vietnam are highly dynamic: Within their working life, women move between different locations for work and adapt to family needs. Access to work is often gained through personal networks such as family or friends (e.g. Earl 2014, Leshkowich 2014, Nguyen 2015). Geographic mobility is an important strategy to adapt to the demands of the labor market, especially for women (e.g. Vu 2013).
Adding to this research, I argue that female careers in Vietnam today depend on access to multiple communities of practice (Wenger 1998), such as work and family. As interviews showed, women do not only move between locations but also from one vocation to another. Entering a vocation is not necessarily marked by formalized training but through (peripheral) participation in common practice facilitated by personal networks. While female careers are also influenced by family related decision-making, they are not always subject to a family’s decisions but also reflect how women create meaning and identity through vocation and family. Both factors, personal networks and family related decision-making, can facilitate and simultaneously restrain career opportunities for women in Vietnam.
- Working Rhythms: Relations of Labor and Morality in Ho Chi Minh City Catherine Earl RMIT University Vietnam
Rhythms of banal and diurnal working offer a lens to observe social transformation. This paper challenges the claim that there is an entirely new landscape of production, consumption and mobility in Vietnam. Rather than conceptualizing social and economic transformations in Vietnam in terms of a turning point or rupture of time and space – a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ – I take a relational approach to exploring the socio-historically situatedness of work related phenomena. In doing so, I engage with anthropological theorizing of transformation and change. I explore how relations bring novelty in urban life and question to what extent an orientation towards progressive novelty shapes and is shaped by curiosity about globalizing processes and skepticism towards traditional ways of framing and interpreting (re)production and innovation. Drawing on fieldwork among urban professionals and spontaneous labor migrants of Ho Chi Minh City since 2000, I analyze how gender is implicated in relations of labor, class, mobility and morality as rhythms. I consider these working rhythms through paradigmatic, syntagmatic and symbolic relations of time and space. I conclude to what extent new production regimes and techniques of governance are discursive products of place-dependent action, politics of the self, and affective experiences of social transformation.
Three decades after its shift from socialist central planning to a market economy, Vietnam is vastly different from what it used to be. Economic growth, privatization, industrialization and urbanization have ushered in entirely new landscape of production, consumption and mobility. Cities are rapidly expanding, so are global factories and urban service industries, attracting millions of migrant workers; micro-businesses abounds; mobile economic networks extend beyond national borders. Recent Vietnam scholarship has documented the emergence of new configurations of labor, work and care in this context. In particular, it has shown complex dynamics of class and gender at the intersection between new production regimes and techniques of governance on the one hand, and new politics of the self on the other. Such politics draws on both the socialist structure of feelings, enduring moral ideals and competing notions of modernity. It also invokes a new divide between ‘meaningful’, socially valued and formalized labor and low-qualified and precarious labor that garners little social recognition or even stigmatizes.
This panel explores the nexus of value, gender and class in relation to the question of labor in Vietnam today with papers that discuss the implications of gender for one or more of the following themes:
- Labor and class: The articulation of class identities through labor processes, explorations of precarious labor, and the politics of labor that shape the relations between workers and employers, between migrant workers and the urban middle class, and between the state and citizens.
- Labor, migration and mobility: The diverse trajectories of migration and mobility among social groups, the emergence of new labor subjectivities, and the implications of mobility for the valuation of labor.
- Labor and care: How the valuation of labor is integral to relations and practices of care within and beyond family and kinship (at community and societal levels, including those of philanthropy and social welfare).
- Labor and morality: Competing moral valuations of labor based on different value orientations that coexist in Vietnam today, e.g. socialist, capitalist, communal, labor as the basis for moral and communal life, and the emergence of moral economic networks around particular forms of gendered labor.