Political ecology in uncharted waters - bridging critical research approaches through collaborative research partnerships in Vietnam  — ASN Events

Political ecology in uncharted waters - bridging critical research approaches through collaborative research partnerships in Vietnam  (16715)

Paula C Brown 1
  1. School of Geosciences, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

How does political ecology sit within Vietnam’s institutions and networks that are uniquely shaped by its socio-political context? The use of political ecology as a research frame can present issues in the context of Vietnam, where the use of a critical research approach may appear to be more hindrance than help. Many Vietnam scholars and SE Asian scholars more broadly find themselves hindered by the use of critical research approaches, and struggle to adapt their research strategies into something achievable once in-country. Imported western academic critique, while well intended in its origins, can constitute a poor fit once its application is attempted at a research site.

However political ecology doesn't have to be antagonistic in Vietnam or any other regional research context where critical research approaches may appear outwardly unwelcome. The critical research questions that are framed through a political ecology lens can be addressed through collaborative research approaches. The engagement of local research partners with interests in critical research enables political ecology research to become locally situated and relevant, bridging from the western academic ivory tower to local institutions, networks and field sites.

This presentation examines how political ecology can be used to address critical research questions in emerging research spaces around coastal and fisheries resources in Vietnam, through collaborative research approaches. This research approach was used in 18 months of ethnographic research throughout coastal Vietnam, involving multiple research sites, projects, actors and institutions around marine protected area projects. The application of political ecology to fisheries is innovative as fisheries research is typically dominated by biologists and economists, with inputs from maritime anthropologists largely ignored by the former scientific specialisations. Political ecology enables examination of how broader influences in coastal zones such as aquaculture, tourism and marine conservation have abutted and often clashed with traditional fisheries activities, shedding light on broader policy consequences.

The research constituted an ethnography of development institutions as described by Mosse (2004) as revealing how development projects work, and how success is produced.  Such a research approach necessitated collaboration with multiple research partners across multiple scales. The potential of such collaborative research approaches to generate more practical and policy related benefits will be explored through reference to case study experience acquired through these multiple sites and research partnerships situated around the coastal zone.

Mosse, D. (2004). Is Good Policy Unimplementable? Reflections on the Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. Development and Change, 35(4), 639-671.