Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Recent decades’ marketization and privatization reforms under the policy of đổi mới(Renovation) have led to a contraction of Vietnam’s public health care system, just as the incidence of hypertension and other non-communicable diseases has been rising. With a decline in nationalized forms of care, families—and especially women—are idealized as steadfast care-takers who unquestioningly shoulder the burdens of sustaining their own continuity and viability, as households remain the normative and preferred terminal care sites. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Ðà Nẵng, this paper considers how families cope with terminal illness and manage bereavement following death. In focusing on how multiple generations narratively navigate conflicting commitments to those whom they are expected to love, I consider the role of silence and suffering in enacting care and affirming local versions of justice. I suggest that “living narratives”—particularly “sideshadowing” accounts, which construct and transform subjects’ worlds (see Ochs and Capps 2001; Samuels 2019; Shohet 2017)—constitute fertile means by which family members struggle to confront death and collaborate to forge an ethical life together even in the face of ordinarily unspoken rifts and changing political-economic and moral terrains.