Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - The Transnational Construction of Vice for State-Formation: The Case of Vietnam

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8222, Lobby Level

Why does the Vietnamese state vary its attitude towards vices, notwithstanding their illegality and recognized harmfulness to society? This paper addresses this question by exploring the history of Vietnamese statecraft focusing on prostitution and opium spanning from the precolonial to the post-Doi Moi eras and adjudicates the state’s attitude shift towards vice.  Based on colonial archives, my argument focuses on the historical evolution of state-making in Vietnam in ways that utilize the fluid regulations of vice to construct and project the image of a ‘modern’ state, involving continuity and breaks with Vietnam’s past stances. State narratives arguably contribute to political and economic significance of vice: the state seeks to summon their pre-colonial status and the state vehemently eschews its colonial past and legacy as ways to constructing and affirming a ‘modern’ independent identity. By comparing Vietnam’s dichotomous attitude regarding these vices, my analysis elucidates shifting state conceptions of vice influenced by transnational and external forces shaping conceptions of vices for the benefits of state-making. More broadly, this paper contributes to studies of the co-evolution of states and global markets, by identifying how ambiguities around the regulation of vice and transnational pressures ensue apparatuses for Vietnam to participate in the dismantling of its past and the construction of a ‘modern’ yet controlling state.

Kim Mai Tran

Georgetown University, District of Columbia

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2 - The Transnational Construction of Vice for State-Formation: The Case of Vietnam



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