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#04 - Researching In and Beyond Vietnamese Museums (Rachel Tough)

Doing fieldwork in social sciences

Recherche dans et au-delà des musées vietnamiens : faire du terrain depuis le musée de la guerre / Rachel Tough (UEA)
Nghiên cứu trong và ngoài phạm vi các bảo tàng Việt Nam : thực hiện thực địa từ Bảo tàng chứng tích chiến tranh / Rachel Tough (UEA)


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There have been recent calls (Schorch 2009 ; Schorch and McCarthy 2019) for more anthropological studies of curatorial work that can contribute to critically analysing, revising, and energising curatorial theory and practice. My doctoral research responds to these calls by examining the decision-making processes that inform the way memories and histories of war are curated and exhibited in museum settings in Vietnam. By producing a museum ethnography, I aim to demonstrate how a museum is not only a building housing objects and collections but also a setting where multiple agents with multiple subjectivities make multiple choices that inform national narratives.
This paper will share reflections on the challenges and contributions of in situ methods and the importance of reflexivity in the early stages of twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork at the War Remnants Museum. Recent scholarship in museum anthropology stresses the need to avoid ’methodological containerism’ (MacDonald et al 2018) as this neglects that museums are institutions that are embedded in wider society. I therefore also aim to transcend the boundaries of the museum field site by studying museum operations outside of their four walls. The paper will discuss possibilities to incorporate such an approach in research on museums in Vietnam.


“Doing fieldwork in social sciences” is a methodological seminar organised by Emmanuelle PEYVEL with the support of IRASEC, Van Lang University, the University of Pedagogy, the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) and the Architecture and Research Center (ARC).
9 and 10 June 2021 - Văn Lang University

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