SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Alternative Routes to Development? The Political Economy of Christian Conversion among a Marginalised Ethnic Minority in Vietnam's Highlands

Seb Rumsby

Date: 22 November 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 22 November 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: 4426

Type of Event: Seminar


This paper is a preliminary report of recent fieldwork conducted in Vietnam over 2016 and 2017, exploring the political economy of Christianisation among the Hmong, through the lens of ‘development’. After introducing the theoretical framework, five specific developmental impacts of religious change are discussed: government discrimination, Christian networks, pastors as new elites, personal lifestyle changes, and gender relations. In summary, mass Christian conversion among the Hmong in Vietnam over the past 30 years has had, and is continuing to have, significant and diverse influences on local and national political economies. There are winners and losers within the Hmong community, however those who stand the most to gain often come from the poorest and most marginalised sectors of society. Despite widespread government opposition, Christianity is empowering many Hmong communities to improve their livelihoods outside of (or in addition to) state-led development initiatives.

Speaker Biography

Seb Rumsby is a PhD candidate at Warwick University's department for Politics and International Studies, having completed his BA (Vietnamese and Development Studies) and MA (South East Asian Studies) at SOAS. His interdisciplinary research interests include ethnic politics, non-national histories, millenarianism and sociolinguistics in South East Asia, with a focus on Vietnam.

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