Consuming Urban Culture in Contemporary Vietnam

Consuming Urban Culture in Contemporary Vietnam

Consuming Urban Culture in Contemporary Vietnam

Consuming Urban Culture in Contemporary Vietnam


The diverse ways in which Vietnam is culturally and socially negotiating the future are examined in this book by scholars engaged in the most recent social research in Vietnam, as well as some of Vietnam's most popular cultural producers.


Mandy Thomas and Lisa B.W. Drummond

Present-day Vietnam: contradictions and dilemmas

Everyday cultural life dramatically reflects and embodies changes in society at large. In this volume, a range of authors discuss the impact on everyday lived experience of the key political and economic transformations that have occurred in Vietnam over the last few years. Since the late 1980s, Vietnam has undergone a metamorphosis from a relatively closed society with a centrally planned economy to a rapidly urbanising one with a globalising cultural outlook. As the experience of other modernising Southeast Asian nations has shown, however, it is nigh impossible to open oneself up to global flows of capital without also opening oneself up to global flows of culture and information. It is because of this that Vietnam is on the brink of becoming a fully fledged media culture in which the popular narratives and cultural icons are reshaping political views, constructing tastes and values, crystallising the market economy and 'providing the materials out of which people forge their very identities' (Hartley 1996:1). These changes have been the catalyst for an exciting ferment of activity in the domain of pop culture. Artists, musicians, writers, television producers and film directors have all benefited from the diversification in patterns of consumption, the slowly increasing levels of wealth and the gradual freeing up of state control over the activities of the populace.

Street culture in the cities of Vietnam is one in which street vendors carrying baskets of fresh produce from their farms jostle with young men in crisp, white, business shirts rushing to their offices, where cyclos carry groups of students loudly communicating on their mobile phones, where the pavement noodle shops double as internet cafés and the latest glimmering paintjob on a motorbike is being admired by a group of savvy young consumers. The streets in urban Vietnam are predominantly youth-focused, reflecting the demographic situation in which well over half of the population is under 16 years old. However, it is not so much the age of people that marks the cities as being forward-focused and energetically engaged in the future, but the technologies, music, fashion and leisure activities which symbolise a population urgently acquiring the emblems of modernity. At the same time traditional practices are being modified and transformed, religious practices reinvested with meaning and traditional arts and crafts revived.

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