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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contested imagined communities : higher education for ethnic minority students in Vietnam Tran, Linh Thuy


As a country with 54 ethnic groups, including 53 officially designated "ethnic minority groups," Vietnam has recognized the importance of enhancing education for ethnic minorities. However, despite the government's efforts to increase educational opportunities for ethnic minority students, the latter often do not have access to the same education as their counterparts of the major ethnic group, the Kinh. In this study, the concept of "imagined communities" (Anderson 1991) is applied to analyze national governmental policies on ethnic minorities, curricular structure in the Department of Ethnic Minority Cultures at the Hanoi University of Culture, Vietnam, and the perspectives of professors and students in the department. Three months of field research were conducted in Vietnam, and included: (a) an analysis of national and institutional policy documents, (b) observation at the university, and (c) interviews with professors and ethnic minority students enrolled in the program. The findings of this study show that imagined communities envisioned for ethnic minority students by the government, professors and students themselves are diverse and contested. The contestation of imagined communities on higher education for ethnic minority students in Vietnam shows a clear intersection between power and knowledge. Through education, the government, with its power, has great influence on educational activities which affect the identities of ethnic minority students. Educational settings, in some sense, become the place of social and cultural reproduction where "organic" knowledge of ethnic minority students is discounted. Finally, this study gives a description of my personal transformation after conducting this research. It shows how this research has changed my own mindset and thinking about ethnic minority cultures in general and higher education for ethnic minority students in Vietnam in particular.

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