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Title: Lives intimately connected : the living and the dead in contemporary Central Việt Nam
Author: Marouda, Marina
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2008
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The thesis is a study of the importance of the dead in the making of kinship and the state in contemporary Vietnam. It focuses on the ritual practices surrounding death and the commemoration of the dead as enacted in Hue, the capital of imperial and colonial Vietnam. The practices in question are undertaken by a multiplicity of actors, including families, lineages, descendents of the royal family and post-socialist state officials. The thesis aims at highlighting the centrality of the process of becoming an ancestor in the creation of kinship, and the problematisation of the often rigidly drawn distinction between kinship and state practices. In post-socialist Vietnam, the landscape of the dead is an overgrown one marked by a plethora of departed whose posthumous fate preoccupies the everyday lives of villagers, royals, and state agents. This plethora includes celebrated war heroes, benevolent dead kin, malevolent ghosts, and glorious kings of the past. The study aims to show how different categories of the dead are made and remade by ritual actions and/or neglect of the living. It highlights the instability, uncertainty, and ambiguity that characterise posthumous existence as much as the conditions of the living. On a theoretical level, the study critically engaged with classic anthropological theories of kinship and proposes a view of death as central to the formation of kinship. While descent theories emphasised birth, procreation and associated rights to inheritance, and alliance approaches placed due importance on marriage and exchange, the present study looks at kinship from the perspective of the relations between the living and the dead. Such multivalent, complex, and historically changing relations are essential in the articulation of a shared sense of intimacy punctuated as much by duties of commemoration as by exchanges of valuables and blessings that intertwine the everyday with the cosmological. The study charts the creation of intimacy between the living and the dead on an increasing scale that expands outwards from family rituals centred on domestic altars to state mausoleums dedicated to national ‘uncle’ (Ho Chi Minh) via lineage and village temples, local and provincial museums, and royal citadels and tombs. While noting tensions and disarticulation between kinship and state practices, the study highlights the historical and cultural embeddedness of state commemoration projects as well as the significant shifts in emphasis in family rituals that socialist and post-socialist modernity have brought about.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available