The case of the Red River Delta. By Pham Van Bich. Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Vietnam in Transition series. Richmond: Curzon, 1999. pp. 270. Bibliography, Index.
The study is about the family and its changes over 50 years (1945-95) in a northern part of Vietnam (Red River Delta). The author should be complimented with this respectful and impressive work. The book is the result of the reworking of his doctoral dissertation at the Department of Sociology, University of Goteborg, Sweden. The material in the book is not based on anthropological fieldwork but on a wealth of literature. It is amazing, that so many studies on the Vietnamese family, covering a timespan of roughly the last half century, have been conducted and published. What is of specific value is that the author could use all kind of sources in Vietnamese and open up the findings to the wider world. Particularly his quotations from Vietnamese novels are very vivid and interesting illustrations of the topics under discussion.
The book is a comprehensive and rich scholarly work, a milestone, which reminds me of almost forgotten classics on family life in China, such as, Olga Lang (Chinese Family and Society 1946), or Elisabeth Croll ( The Politics of Marriage in contemporary China, 1981). It contributes highly to a deeper understanding of the changes of the Vietnamese family. An important quality of the book is also the comparative perspective in terms of contrasts between Western individualism and Vietnamese collective family values.
Moreover, it contributes significantly to gender studies. What struck me the most is, that the book is conceptualised from a real, deeply rooted feminist perspective. Not a liberal, harsh or dogmatic feminism, but rather a kind of sensitive feminism which is present at all levels and dimensions of the analysis. If I had not known that the author is a man, I certainly had thought that the book had been written by a woman.
In Chapter one the...