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Ties that Bind: Cultural Identity, Class, and Law in Vietnam's Labor Resistance

Ties that Bind: Cultural Identity, Class, and Law in Vietnam's Labor Resistance
Angie Ngọc Tran
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Ties That Bind explores Vietnamese labor history from the French colonial period to the contemporary era, tracing a vibrant tradition of workers’ resistance to oppressive conditions. Through interviews with employees, labor organizers, journalists, and officials, as well as evidence from archives, government reports, and underground protest materials, this study analyzes a broad range of workers’ experiences, on the factory floor and in their dormitories. Evidence demonstrates that, at critical times, shared cultural ties such as native-place, gender, ethnicity, and religion have propelled Vietnamese workers toward “class moments” inspiring them to fight collectively for their rights.

As socialist Vietnam has integrated into the capitalist global economic system, employees have often challenged factory managers and owners, many of whom camouflage their foreign origins to secure advantages offered exclusively to domestic companies. In addition, Vietnamese workers have challenged their own government, which regulates labor–management relations and tends to suppress protests it deems politically motivated. Protestors have used Marxist rhetoric and strategic action to demand fulfillment of the state’s own socialist contract. Trần’s detailed investigation shows that labor activism is a hallmark of modern Vietnam. This work addresses key questions about global commerce and the factory workers who sustain it.


Angie Ngoc Tran is Professor of Political Economy at California State University–Monterey Bay. Her research interests and publications are on Vietnamese labor-management-state relations, labor resistance, global labor migration and export labor, and corporate social responsibility.


Trân Ngọc Angie makes a substantial contribution to scholarship on Vietnam specifically and Southeast Asia generally by entwining the growth of workers’ class consciousness with their ethnic, religious, and other identities. That she does this for several time periods in Vietnam is especially enlightening.—Prof. Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet, Australian National University, author of The Power of Everyday Politics: How Vietnamese Peasants Transformed National Policy

Trân Ngọc Angie has written the authoritative book on historical and contemporary labor movements in Vietnam. Trân makes a superbly convincing case for “class moments” in which workers mobilize using forms of social consciousness marked by their sense of native place, gender, and religion. This rich analysis lays bare the contradictions among the socialist state, factory owners and managers, and workers, and registers the voices of workers in different historical contexts.—Prof. Nguyên-Võ Thu-Húóng, University of California–Los Angeles, author of The Ironies of Freedom: Sex, Culture, and Neoliberal Governance in Vietnam


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