Current Institutional Affiliation
Department Chair, Global Health, Hanoi Medical University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2002
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
Constructing Men and Masculinities along the Ho Chi Minh Highway in Late Socialist Vietnam

The diverse and mutable meanings of masculinity in rapidly changing contemporary Vietnam constitute the driving force of this study, which is framed by the building of the national North South highway along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The highway, constructed on the symbolic ground of the nation’s heroic and yet painful past, represents the nation’s aspirations to become one of the ‘Asian Tiger’ economies, a masculinized vision of economic progress. The purpose of this study is to examine the array of masculinities as they evolve in time and space against this backdrop. The study will focus on the lives of a group of migrant workers in their relations with other men (soldiers, supervisors, and Cuban advisers) who also work in the highway, with the male and female villagers who are ethnically different from the workers but host them during their stay, and with men and women who stay behind the workers’ sending (home) community. This study is a multi-sited ethnography, i.e., an ethnographic study of the workers in several locations: a section of the highway in the remote Palm Tree Village; the workers’ sending community in another rural area; and a city where they work while waiting till the end of the monsoon season in the highway. At these sites, the study will examine masculinities in a framework incorporating symbolic meanings, social norms and bodily practices that display themselves in everyday encounters among the workers, between the workers and women and other men of different social and ethnic backgrounds. The Ho Chi Minh highway is the uniquely appropriate context for this study to explore the question of masculinity in its complex relations with other questions of modernity, nationalism, ethnicity, space and femininity.