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ISEK - Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies Social and Cultural Anthropology

Understanding the Heritage and Development Nexus in Vietnam: A multi-scalar approach

Prof. Dr. Annuska Derks and Dr. Peter Bille Larsen, Dept. of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, University of Zürich
Prof. Dr. Nguyễn Thị Hiền and Dr. Hoàng Cầm, Institute of Cultural Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences


The heritage-development nexus in Vietnam

Projektbild Understanding the Heritage
Drum breaking festival of the Macoong, Source: Peter Larsen

Ranging from infrastructure to tourism-oriented economies and evolving local identities, the “heritage-development nexus” offers a unique entry-point to capture social and economic transformation from an anthropological perspective. Vietnam offers an especially relevant case as heritage plays an increasingly central role in shaping national and local identity narratives amidst wider processes of social and economic transformation and development. This research involves multi-scalar approach to compare globally recognized forms such as World Heritage sites and Intangible Cultural Heritage listed by UNESCO with national and provincial forms of heritage recognition and localized cases of ethnic minority heritage recognition. The 3-year project focuses on selected case studies in Northern and Central Vietnam provinces and will combine fine-grained ethnographic research with expert interviews and policy analysis.

Project team

The research team brings together a team of internationally recognized Vietnamese and Swiss heritage and development experts, all with a longstanding focus on multiple regions, development fields and fieldwork experience in Vietnam. On the Swiss side, Annuska Derks and Peter Bille Larsen, are lead researchers in the initiative. The Vietnamese team is led by Hoàng Câm, Nguyễn Thị Hiền and Nguyễn Thị Phương Châm together with Đỗ Thị Thu Hà, Phạm Đặng Xuân Hương, Nguyễn Thị Thu Trang and Cao Thảo Hương. The research is equally open to involvement from MA and PhD students interested in similar topics.

Funding and partners

Co-financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and National Foundation for Science and Technology Development in Vietnam (NAFOSTED), the project is part of an innovative bilateral scheme to promote cooperation between Swiss and Vietnamese researchers. Our Vietnamese partner, the Institute of Cultural Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences is leading research institution in the field of heritage studies and cultural policies. Nationally, the project involves close cooperation with national heritage authorities, UNESCO and other academic partners such as the National Institute of Culture and Arts Studies (VICAS) and the Hanoi National University of Education.

Procession, Dong Cuong Temple, Yên Bai province, source: Peter Larsen
Procession, Dong Cuong Temple, Yên Bai province, source: Peter Larsen