Public spaces/public disgraces : crowds and the state in contemporary Vietnam

Thomas, Mandy (2001) Public spaces/public disgraces : crowds and the state in contemporary Vietnam. SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, 16(2), pp. 306-330.

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This article argues that a semantic shift in the crowd in Vietnam over the last decade has allowed public space to become a site through which transgressive ideologies and desires may have an outlet. At a time of accelerating social change, the state has effectively delimited public criticism yet a fragile but assertive form of Vietnamese democratic practice has arisen in public space, at the margins of official society, in sites previously equated with state control. Official state functions attract only small audiences, and rather than celebrating the dominance of the party, reveal the disengagement of the populace in the party's activities. Where crowds were always a component of state (stage)-managed events, now public spaces are attracting large numbers of people for supposedly non-political activities which may become transgressive acts condemned by the regime. In support of the notion that crowding is an opening up of the possibility of more subversive political actions, the paper presents an analysis of recent crowd formations and the state's reaction to them. The analysis reveals the modalities through which popular culture has provided the public with the means to transcend the constraints of official, authorized, and legitimate codes of behaviour in public space. Changes in the use of public space, it is argued, map the sets of relations between the public and the state, making these transforming relationships visible, although fraught with contradictions and anomalies.

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ID Code: 63141
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Contemporary Vietnam, Public Spaces, Social Change, Crowd Formations, Relations between the Public and the State, Democracy
ISSN: 0217-9520
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > CULTURAL STUDIES (200200) > Asian Cultural Studies (200202)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Deposited On: 08 Oct 2013 00:46
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2013 06:51

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