Allen Tran, Assistant Professor of Sociology & Anthropology
Linking socioeconomic and personal transformations, recent scholarship on neoliberalism in East and Southeast Asia has examined the role of various emotional experiences in reconfiguring selfhood toward values of personal responsibility and self-care. However, studies rarely focus on how such experiences come to be understood as specifically emotional themselves. In this article, I examine the growing use of emotion (cam xuc)as a conceptual category to define the self and everyday life in a psychologistic idiom among middle-class residents of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. While more established discourses of sentiment (tinh cam) define selfhood in relation to notions of obligation and care, the emerging model of emotion emphasizes individuated self-knowledge. However, instead of replacing sentiment, newer understandings of emotion have developed alongside and in relation to sentiment. In categorizing various feelings as explicitly “emotional” in nature, people participate in a self-fashioning project that cultivates an emotionally aware and expressive self that is informed by neoliberal sensibilities yet does not supplant socialist or Confucian models of selfhood. I argue that emotions are not only central to the subjective experience of the transition to a market-oriented economy but also that emotion as a category itself is a medium through which economic transformations reorganize selfhood more generally. [emotion, self, neoliberalism, ethnopsychology, Vietnam]
Tran, Allen L. “Rich Sentiments and the Cultural Politics of Emotion in Postreform Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.” American Anthropologist 117, no. 3 (2015) : 480-492.