The Vanishing Village is a short documentary, shot in 2015 around the village of La Tinh that currently lies in the outskirts of greater Hanoi, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Because of the rapid urbanization it is probably a matter of time before the city will take over the village. Local villagers and embedded researchers tell what happened in the area when the encroachment of the city of Hanoi changed the rural life of many. How did they react? What did they feel? And what do they see as their future?
‘The Vanishing Village’ is a spin-off product of the research I undertook since the early nineties in Vietnam.
My first book Facing the Future, Reviving the Past (Singapore: 1999) was the result of anthropological research between 1992 and 1996 in a small Red River delta village. It dealt with the history of the village since its foundation in the mid-seventeenth century, based on existing French and Vietnamese archival materials. The anthropological research focused upon the internal politics within the village community which enabled powerful lineages and groups to (re)gain political and social power. The revival of religious activities as a result of the renovation policies set in by the Vietnamese communist party was one of the primary topics. Many years later I was able to study the results of this interplay between the powers that be and local villagers in terms of what had changed in La Tinh.
The topic of civil society became a leading theme in many studies about Vietnam. This time I opted for the effects on village society of the rapid urbanization of the periphery of Hanoi where land grabbing and private economic gains of outsiders are at loggerheads with local experiences and perceptions of state-village relationships. The results are presented in a smaller book entitled Vietnam: One-Party State and the Mimicry of Civil Society. Especially chapter 3 deals with the village that is presented in the documentary.
Dr. John Kleinen (associate professor emeritus)
Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Department of Anthropology