Local Non-Government Organizations in Vietnam:
Development, Civil Society and State-society Relations
Department of Geography
University of Washington (Seattle)
Chair of the Supervisory Committee:
Dr Lucy Jarosz
This dissertation explores the fascinating ways the concept of civil society is understood in Vietnam, its place in Vietnamese political ideology, the conflicts around its deployment by international donors, and particularly its daily manifestations through local, non-profit, non-government development organizations, the so-called Vietnamese NGOs. My goal is to challenge the dominant definitions in current civil society theory, particularly those definitions used by international development actors. By challenging these dominant definitions, I look for understandings and insights that better explain the empirical data I collected in my fieldwork. In the process, I argue for a new manner of characterizing civil society based on activities and roles of both state and non-state actors instead of on institutions such as “autonomous associations.” By looking at what each actor does – using a “logic of actions” – rather than what each actor is – using a “logic of domains” – we can begin to see forms of civil society that are obscured by structural definitions. This new manner of approaching civil society can help overcome much of the Euro-centric bias in both mainstream theories of civil society and in the application of civil society through international development projects, allowing for a broader understanding of state-society relations in Vietnam and other places in the world.