Philippe Messier, PhD Scholar at McGill University, Canada visited the Chair on August 2, 2012 to talk on ‘Local State Media, Technology and Ethnic Relations in North Vietnam and Beyond’. As a researcher working in the anthropology of the media, Messier drew on his experiences in conducting research in Vietnam on the relation between media production by VTV5 (State-owned television in Vietnam) with ethnic minorities in North Vietnam as part of his M.A. thesis in Anthropology.
Messier initiated the talk by describing the Hmong ethnic group that inhabits Southern China and Northern Vietnam, with cross-border travel and settlement being a common phenomenon. The talk drew the audience’s attention to the policies adopted by the Vietnamese government in dealing with the Hmong ethnic minorities. While the government attempts to preserve the traditions of minority ethnic groups in order to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region to tourists and visitors, there exists a parallel thrust to bring them to th mainstream. “It is essentially a policy of selective cultural preservation that the Communist government in Vietnam follows,” explained Messier, also talking about the ‘paternalistic’ attitude of those in the mainstream of ‘protect’ the ethnic groups.
The talk also showcased videos shot by Messier during his field work in Vietnam, besides clippings of popular songs and videos in the country, highlighting how song lyrics are re-written to suit the state’s agenda and how the Viet majority play the roles of ethnic minorities in these films. Messier also related an interesting account of a minority writer in Vietnam, whose work, though published by the state, is an instance of how the writer exercising his agency from his minority background. The talk provided interesting insights into how video technology is deployed in working with ethnic minorities in Vietnam