2011 Vietnam Update

Vietnam’s environment has been affected significantly by market-oriented development, wars, demographic growth and climate change. Paper presenters will analyse the scope, causes and implications of key environmental problems in historical and contemporary perspective. They will discuss Vietnamese conceptions of environmental wellbeing and crisis, and trace evolutions in environmental consciousness.

What capacities does the Vietnamese state bring to environmental management?

Papers explore the precedents for environmental policy and practice in Vietnam. They provide insights into the negotiated nature of environmental decision-making, and critically assess the environmental regulations affecting local authorities, businesses, and residential, agrarian, forestry and mining sectors.

What scope exists in Vietnam for environmental activism?

Presenters identify the emergence of new social coalitions around the promotion of environmental values and civil society movements opposed to specific projects. They analyse how various interests are aligned in such contests and assess the prospects for environmental activism influencing economic practice and state policy. Twelve presenters will address these issues during a two day conference on 17-18 November 2011. The conference will commence with a presentation on recent economic developments in Vietnam.

The Vietnam Update in 2011 is dedicated to examining the environment in Vietnam. Papers are sought that can provide a rich analysis of trends and challenges, and of the political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of environmental issues in Vietnam. Suggested research questions for papers are as follows:

Vietnam’s environment has been affected significantly by market-oriented economic development and in longer-term perspective by wars, planning decisions and demographic change. How well do we understand environmental change in Vietnam? What is known of the scope, causes and implications of environmental problems such as pollution, landscape degradation, water shortages, and species decline? What impacts have natural disasters or environmental shocks had on individuals, communities and state budgets? What major challenges are predicted, and how well equipped are the government and the people to cope with them? Do examples exist of environmentally sustainable growth or of improvements in environmental quality?

Analysis of environmental policies and politics has potential to provide new insights into Vietnam’s political landscape. Have the party and state a coherent ‘line’ on the environment, or is environmental decision-making negotiated and unpredictable? How well regulated are the local authorities and private companies whose activities impinge on the environment? What social organisations or civil society actors have been engaged in environmental activism? Can we identify the emergence of new interest groups or social coalitions around the promotion of environmental values, or opposition to specific projects? How are different social interests aligned in such contests?

Anthropologists and other social scientists have found that the environment has a central role in cosmologies, religious life and cultural identities among Vietnam’s diverse ethnic groups, religions and local cultures. What conceptions of environmental wellbeing and of crisis are uncovered in such studies? Does research into local ecologies, livelihoods and experiences prompt re-evaluation of national socio-economic strategies? What insights can ethnographic research provide into commonalities and/or contestation between environmental worldviews in Vietnam?

What capacities exist to know, communicate or learn about the environment in Vietnam? Environmental issues in Vietnam often are researched, discussed and taught in reference to universal categories, even though interactions with the environment are informed by local idioms and implicit knowledge. Is there a ‘Vietnamese’ orientation to the environment? If so what conditions underpin it? Do we see a revalorisation of ‘nature’ taking place–or changes in environmental consciousness–as a consequence of technological change, migration, urbanisation, transnational cultural flows, or social realignments?

In facing up to environmental challenges, does the Vietnamese state show itself to be visionary, pragmatic, or in denial? What capacities or lack, thereof does the Vietnamese state bring to environmental management? What are the historical precedents for environmental policy and practice in Vietnam, from the pre-colonial through to the post-socialist eras? How ‘globalised’ is Vietnamese environmental policy making and management? What partners, rivals and sources of inspiration can the Vietnamese state find in the task of environmental management, and what lessons might Vietnam have to offer other countries?

Interested writers are invited to submit paper proposals on the above themes. Conference organisers do not expect each paper to address all the sets of questions noted above. We would like, however, each paper to take up issues from more than one of these sets. Papers can approach the issues in different ways; we expect variety in this regard. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. Contributions should endeavour to put the discussion in comparative perspective.

At the Update each author will have approximately 30 minutes to summarise what her/his paper argues and the evidence used. The full text of the paper may be included, subject to any necessary revisions to meet publication requirements, in a refereed book that we hope will be published within a year after the conference.

Day 1: Thursday 17 November

8.30-9.00am Registration 9.00am - Welcome Paul Hutchcroft, Director, School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, ANU

9.10 - Vietnam’s Economy: A Year in Review James Riedel, Johns Hopkins University

9.50 Environmental Protection in Vietnam Nguyen Trung Thang, Institute for Strategy and Policy in Natural Resources and the Environment, Hanoi

10.30 - Morning Tea

11.00 - Framing the Environment: Competing and Complementary Visions in State and Society Andrew Wells-Dang, Civil society and governance consultant, Hoi An, Vietnam

11.45 - Prospects and Challenges for Environmental Politics: The Vietnamese Bauxite Controversy Jason Morris-Jung, University of California, Berkeley

1.30 - Civil Society and Environmental Policy in Vietnam: A New Source of Governance? Bui Hai Thiem, University of Queensland

2.15 - Green on Red: Searching for ‘Suitable Solutions’ to Vietnam’s Environmental Crisis David Brown, Journalist, Retired Diplomat, Fresno California

3.00 Afternoon Tea

3.30 - Community Environmental Action in Hanoi Dang Huong Giang, Action for the City, Viet Nam

4.15 - Protecting the Environment, Policing the Population Oscar Salemink, University of Copenhagen

7.00pm - Conference Dinner Thai Lemongrass, Melbourne Building, 65 London Circuit, Civic

Day 2: Friday 18 November

9.00am Emperor Tự Dức’s Bad Weather: Natural Disasters in Vietnam, 1847-1883 Katie Dyt, Australian National University

9.45 - Forests are Gold: Exploring the Legacies of Political Forests in Vietnam Pamela McElwee, Rutgers University

10.30 - Morning Tea

11.00 - Risk Perceptions and Responses to Pollution in Vietnam’s Craft Villages Trung Dinh Dang, Susan MacKay and Sango Mahanty, Australian National University

11.45 - Australian Aid and Climate Change in Vietnam Matt Spannagle, Climate Change Advisor, AusAID

12.15 - Lunch

1.30 Shrimp Farming in the Mekong Delta: The Social and Ecological Challenges of Market-oriented Production Ngo Thi Phuong Lan, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City

2.15 - Floods in the Mekong Delta: Local Perceptions, Impacts and Resilience Nguyen Van Kien, Australian National University

3.00 - 3.30 Wrap-up Discussion

For additional information about the program and speakers contact philip.taylor@anu.edu.au

For more information on the 2011 Vietnam Update, contact:

Dr Philip Taylor
Department of Anthropology
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT, 0200

+61 2 61252300

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