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

Market Transformation and Trade Network Dynamics in Rural Vietnam: The Case of Ninh Hiep

Esther Horat


This project seeks to explore the everyday life of small-scale traders in the textile and medical plant trading village of Ninh Hiep, northern Vietnam. Along with the launch of the economic reforms in the late 1980s trade restrictions were also loosened, leading to a sudden multiplication of commercial activities on all levels. The proliferation of petty trade also brought about the re-vitalisation of old and the building of new trade networks. This process is to be seen in light of power relations, which pervade the business landscape. Hence the investigation of the meaning and functioning of trade networks is an integral part of the research. How the reorganization of trade affects the social structure of the village is another matter of concern. This also touches on the issue of morality since trade is an ambiguous activity for a long time. While it was officially rejected during the subsidy period, it has still flourished secretly with support from local cadres. Despite the now liberal economic environment, petty traders still seem to be at the margin of society because they do not embody the states´ visions of modernity and development. How small-scale traders deal with these changing conditions thus deserves a closer look.