CULTURE & POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT IN VIETNAM

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Dr. Christophe ROBERT

Loyola University Chicago

Vietnam Study Abroad Program


cjp_robert@yahoo.com

Mobile: 0903.163.602


CULTURE & POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT IN VIETNAM




SYLLABUS

SPRING 2012

Economic development, under
-
development, developing countries,
newly developed

countries,
and under
-
developed ones
:

"Development" seems so commonplace and obvious we usually
don't reflect on its complex and ambiguous relationship with another set of equall
y "obvious"
notions: modernization, modernity, being or striving to be "modern" or "developed." In this
course we approach these issues from the viewpoint of anthropology, whose main purpose
analyzing other cultures
-
is to make the familiar strange and the

strange familiar. We engage
these questions from within a metropolis undergoing rapid social change and fast economic
growth: our aim is to conceptualize better the complex flows of capital, people, and ideas
underlying theories and practices of developme
nt and modernization.

We begin with urbanization, one key aspect of these complex questions in Southeast Asia, and
Asia generally (think China and India). We begin here and now, in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City.
From this basic grounding in the realities you ar
e now encountering on a daily basis, we begin
to reflect on various theories of the benefits and costs of "development" (or its means and
ends). We then move on to the politics of development and modernization, especially the
politics of natural resource u
se and environmental destruction.

One important focus in this course is infrastructure: road building, urban planning and
demolition, dams and hydropower on the Mekong. Infrastructure is one of the main interfaces
between people and development. It is cap
ital
-
intensive, and the site of exhaustive top
-
down
planning by governments (including foreign aid) and development agencies and donors (such as
the UN
,

World Bank
, and

Asian Development Bank). One recurrent question is the role and
place of people in deve
lopment: do governments (state agencies and state officials) know
what's best for their people in terms of "developing" and "modernizing" them? Do people
themselves at the local level know "what's best for them"? And how do/can they organize to
put this in
to practice? Who decides
,

and how
is the decision made,
not only about what
constitutes "development," but how best to achieve it.

This course is an introduction to these complex questions. Throughout the course we

will

engage in participant
-
observation exercises in the city. You will acquire sets of theoretical and
practical tools to better analyze the Vietnamese situation, and development issues more
generally.

ASSIGNMENTS, RESEARCH, AND GRADES

Grading structure 4 sho
rt exercises

40% (10% each)

1 research paper (3000 words)

30%

Class participation and preparation

30%

Your work and my expectations


As long as you come to class adequately prepared to discuss readings, your research, and if you
turn in your assignments on time while having spent a reasonable amount of time on them (Le.
turning in decent work taken seriously), there should be no worry a
bout your final grade. Please
note that this course is in seminar format. This requires that you to come to class prepared to
discuss the readings. Hence read articles carefully and take notes on them. The weekly readings
are not long, but they require con
centration and effort. I will ask you questions directly about
the readings and about your analysis of them. I use the Socratic method, which means that I ask
you questions, and more questions as a followup to your answers: this is done in order to open
a
dialogue in class about the issues at hand, and to promote creative thinking and the ability to
explain one's thoughts and arguments while taking other people's comments into account.
Please carefully proofread, spellcheck, and edit your written work befor
e turning it in. This is
the first (and easy) step toward professional
-
level writing. Your work should be page
-
numbered
and double
-
spaced, in a basic 12
-
point font (e.g., Times, Arial, or Calibri). Please remember to
include your name, class, assignment, a
nd date.

Short exercises /

The objective of these 4 short exercises is to provide you with sustained ethnographic

engagement with development issues
throughout
semester, and adequately prepare you

to write a good, self
-
reflective paper on your experien
ces with development here in

Vietnam.

Schedule and topics of short exercises

Ethnographic exercise #1: "Locating and visualizing" (Due Monday, February 13. Class
discussion February 14.)

Ethnographic exercise #2:
Field notes: Getting it down on paper" (Due Monday, March 5.
Discussion in class, March 6.)

Ethnographic exercise #3: "Keywords and local knowledge" (Due Monday, April 9. Class
discussion April 10.)

Short exercise #4: detailed outline and paper draft (dr
aft
zero")
(Due Monday, April 16. Class
discussions, April 17 & 24.)


THEME 1. URBAN SPACES AND URBANIZATION

Week 3. Course Introduction (January 31)

Week 4. Urban planning and political power (February 7)


James Scott,
Seeing Like a State
(Yale
University Press, 1998). Chapter 4, "The High

Modernist City" (focus especially on pp. 103
-
119 and 130
-
146). Bill Hayton,
Vietnam
Rising Dragon
(Yale University Press, 2010). Chapter 3, "Living on the Streets" (pp. 46
-
67).

Suggested reading (optional)


Ja
mes Scott,
Seeing Like a State
(Yale University Press, 1998). Chapter 3, "Authoritarian
High Modernism" (focus on pp. 87
-
97). Wu Hung, "Zhang Dali's
Dialogue:
Conversation
with a City" (Public Culture 12(3), 2000).

+ Ethnographic exercise #1. Due Monday,
February 13. Class discussion February 14.

Week 5. Road
-
building and developmental thinking (February 14)


Thomas Fuller, "In Isolated Hills of Asia, New Roads to Speed Trade" (New York Times,
March 31, 2008).

Thomas Fuller, "Cambodia Takes to the Roads
in Building Spree" {New York Times}
January 10} 2010).

Thomas Williamson} "Malaysia's National Expressway" (Space and Culture 6(2), 2003).

Suggested reading (optional)


Jackson, A
Sense of Place, a Sense of Time.
Selections.

Week 6.

Marginal spaces, poverty, and migration (February 21)


Mike Davis, “
Planet of
Slum
s”
l

(NLR 26, 2004).

Suggested readings (optional)

Friedrich Kittler} "The City is a Medium" (New Literary History 27(4), 1996).

Saskia Sassen, "The Global City:
Strategic Site/New Frontier.
1I
In
Democracy, Citizenship,
and the Global City,
ed. E.F. Isin (London: Routledge, 2000).

Saskia Sassen, "Cities in Today's Global
Age
ll
(SAIS Review 39(1), 2009).

THEME 2. DEVELOPMENT IN THEORY AND PRACTICE

Week 7.

Development theories and economic development (February 28)


James Ferguson, "Anthropology and Its Evil Twin: "Development" in the Constitution of
a Discipline.
J1
In
The Anthropology of Development and Globalization,
eds. Marc
Edelman and Angelique Hauger
ud (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005).


Richard Smith, "Creative destruction: Capitalist Development and China's Environment"

(NlR 1
-
222, 1997).

-
+ Ethnographic Exercise #2. Due Monday, March 5. Discussion in class, March 6.

Week 8.

Global flows of people, commodities, capital, and ideas {March 6}


Arjun Appadurai, "Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy." In
The


Anthropology of Globalization,
eds. Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo (Malden, MA:

Blackwell, 2002
). '

Anna Tsing,
Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection
(Princeton University Press,
2005). Chapter 1, "Frontiers of Capitalism"; chapter 2, "The Economy of Appearances."

Suggested reading (optional)


George Marcus, "Ethnography in/of the World Sys
tem"
(Annual Review of Anthropology,
vol. 24, 1995).


THEME 3. NATURAL RESOURCES & POLITICS OF ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION

Week 9. Resource politics: Water, markets, power (March 13)


Milton Osborne,
The Mekong: River Under

Threat" (Lowy Institute for International
Policy, Paper 27, 2009).

Milton Osborne, "The Water Politics of China and Southeast Asia, Part 2" (Lowy
Institute, 2007).

Suggested reading (optional)

Kenneth Pomeranz
, "The Great Himalayan Watershed: Agrarian Crisis, Mega
-
Dams and
the Environment" (NLR 58, 2008).

Week 10. Controlling nature and people in the Mekong Delta (March 20)


David Biggs,
Quagmire: Nation
-
Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta
(University of
W
ashington Press, 2010). Introduction; Chapter 1, "Water's Edge"; Epilogue.

THEME 4. POVERTY & MARGINALITY


Week 11. March 27. NO CLASS THIS WEEK (student trip to central and northern Vietnam)


+ Ethnographic Exercise #3. Due Monday, April 9. Discussion
in class, April 10.


Week 12 and 13.

Urban margins, people in transit (April 3 & April 10)


Erik Harms,
Saigon's Edge: On the Margins o
f
Ho Chi Minh City
(University of Minnesota
Press, 2011). Introduction: "Saigon, Inside Out"; Chapter 1, "Bittersweet
Transitions:
Urbanization on the Fringe of

the City"; chapter 5,

The
Road to Paradise: Building the
Trans
-
Asia Highway"; chapter 6,

The
Problem of Civilization

on

Saigon's Edge."

"',

Suggested reading (optional)



Hy Van Luong, ed.
Urbanization, Migration and Poverty in a Vietnamese Metropolis: Ho
Chi Minh City in Comparative Perspectives
(National University of Singapore Press,
2009). Selections .


Short exercise #4. Paper draft and detailed outline. Due Monday, April 16. Class
dis
cussions, April 17 & 24.


Week 14 and 15. (April 17 & April 24)



Student presentations, paper drafts, course conclusion & review