Close to the fire : history, power and morality in a Vietnamese factory community
The March Eighth Textile Company in Hanoi, Vietnam, is historically one of the most important factories in the country and was the focus of the Vietnamese Communist Party's attempts to refashion Vietnam's society and economy through state owned industrial production and communal living. This thesis is based on anthropological participant observation fieldwork conducted among women factory workers in the March Eighth factory and the collective living quarters of the factory and considers how these women experienced the transformations of the socialist revolution and how this shapes their life in the post-reform present. Part One records the social history of the factory and its community from its founding during the early days of socialism in northern Vietnam. Chapters Two and Three describe the process of political and social education of the March Eighth workers. These chapters illuminate the workers' sense of achieving political power through their successful participation in state campaigns and their expressions of nostalgia for this past. In Chapter Four, I use the example of stories of President Ho Chi Minh's official opening of the factory to illustrate this nostalgia and the divergences between officially recorded history and the recollections of the workers. Part Two describes everyday life for older women workers in the present. Most of the women workers by the time of my fieldwork were struggling economically in Vietnam's newly open market economy, and engaged in many social practices that were suppressed or discouraged during the socialist era, including materialism, consumerism and status competition (Chapter Five), and religious and ritual practices (Chapter Six). Through these practices, women evaluated socialist definitions of moral behaviour, incorporated and rejected elements of state discourse, and expressed their anxiety about their changing relationship to political power.