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Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 43(1), pp 111132 February 2012. The National University of Singapore, 2012 doi:10.1017/S0022463411000683

t: Home, city and Connecting places, constructing Te the making of the lunar New Year in urban Vietnam
Patrick McAllister

t, the This paper presents an overview of the main features and nature of T Vietnamese lunar New Year festival, as it is currently experienced in H Ch Minh t and suggests that it City. It outlines a variety of social practices associated with T is through these that one can identify a festive landscape in the city, within which a number of diverse places are made into and experienced as meaningful space in t festival. The emphasis is on how the spatial practices associated the context of the T t by urban residents and on how with the festival constitute the lived experience of T this both transforms and connects various sites. Of particular importance here is the t, bringing family home and how it is linked to the wider holistic experience of T together in a single place sacred and secular, public and private, and the production and consumption of place, in a social construction that is characterised as a heterotopia.


t Nguyn n, the Vietnamese lunar New Year, is the most important festive T event of the Vietnamese calendar,1 closely associated with the countrys history, culture and identity. It has been described as a mega-event, something like a Western Christmas, New Year, Easter and Thanksgiving rolled into one.2 It touches on many aspects of Vietnamese life and provides important insights into the nature of contemt marks the tranporary Vietnamese society and culture. As a calendrical festival, T sition between seasons and, as with other such events, is an opportunity to reflect on
Patrick McAllister is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: patrick.mcallister@canterbury.ac. nz. I am very grateful to L Hong Anh Thu of Hoa Sen University, H Ch Minh City, who assisted me in the collection of the data on which this paper is based. I am thankful also to Hoa Sen University for supporting the research on which the paper is based, and to the College of Arts at the University of n Hunh Thanh Bnh and Phan Canterbury for providing financial assistance. Thanks also to Nguy t in 2008 and who have been very helpful ever since. Thi Thanh Thy who carefully introduced me to T 1 Nir Avieli, Vietnamese New Year rice cakes: Iconic festive dishes and contested national identity, t holidays: Ancestral visits and spring journeys, n Vn Huy, T Ethnology, 44, 2 (2005): 16787; Nguy n Vn Huy and Laurel Kendall (Berkeley: in Vietnam: Journeys of body, mind and spirit, ed. Nguy Nguy n, Glutinous rice, kinship and the University of California Press, 2003), pp. 7191; Xun Hin t festival in Vietnam, in Kinship and food in South East Asia, ed. Monica Janowski and Fiona T Kerlogue (Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, 2007), p. 248. t: The Vietnamese lunar New Year (Hanoi: Th 2 For example, see Hu u Ngoc and Barbara Cohen, T Gii, 1997), p. 15.



the past, to contemplate and renew important social ties, and to anticipate and pret is largely descriptive and it has been the pare for the future. Existing literature on T subject of very little modern research and analysis although the importance of festivals and public rituals for an understanding of contemporary Vietnamese society and cult in terms of the trature is well established.3 Much of the literature describes T ditions associated with it, often with a bias towards northern Vietnam.4 t centres on the first day of the year in As a major festival and holiday period, T the lunar calendar and is marked by a four-day national public holiday, but the festit starts on the twenty-third day of the last lunar val lasts for two or three weeks. T month (thng chap) when the kitchen god is sent to the Jade Emperor in heaven to report on the affairs of the family, and formally ends with the taking down of the cy nu on the seventh day of the first lunar month of the New Year (thng ging).5 The cy nu is not seen in urban H Ch Minh City (HCMC; Saigon), but t festival.6 Others say it ends on some still think of this date as the end of the T the fifteenth day of thng ging (rm thng ging, the important first full moon of the New Year). t is marked by a wide range of activities, especially in the major urban centres, T where local government and other organisations provide festive events for the benefit of citizens (and tourists). In HCMC, where my study is located, there are a number of t take place. Most of these are sites of social sites at which events associated with T activity all year round, such as streets, parks, places of worship and markets, but this activity is transformed and intensified by the ways in which these places are t. There are also a number of ostensibly private places, such as used during T t take place. homes and family graveyards, where kinship activities associated with T The research in HCMC that I have been engaged in since January 2008 has t activities in both the private involved participation in and observation of many T t periods (200810). Through the hospiand public spheres over three successive T tality and kindness of many Vietnamese, I have been present at domestic rituals, t; gone on long bus or motorcycle family reunions and special meals during T rides to tend grave sites with family members; attended pagoda services and accompanied families on their visits to kin, pagodas and temples, sometimes travelling to family reunions in other centres or to special pagodas outside the city such as one memorable day travelling to Cha B en (the Black Lady pagoda) in Ty Ninh
3 Philip Taylor, Modernity and re-enchantment in post-revolutionary Vietnam, in Modernity and re-enchantment: Religion in post-revolutionary Vietnam, ed. Philip Taylor (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2007), pp. 156; Sean K. Malarney, Festivals and the dynamics of the exceptional dead in northern Vietnam, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 38, 3 (2007): 51540; Hy V. Luong, Structure, practice and history: Contemporary anthropological research on Vietnam, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, 1, 12 (2006): 371409. t holidays; Chi B. Nguy n Vn Huy, T n, A study on traditional festivals in Vietnam, Viet 4 Nguy Nam Social Sciences, 87, 2 (2002): 7988; Hunh inh T, New Years day in Vietnamese life and Nguy n, literature, Journal of Vietnamese Studies (Melbourne), 1, 2 (1989): 1724; Xun Hin Glutinous rice, pp. 24863. 5 Only the first and the last months in the lunar calendar are named. The others are simply known by their numbers, e.g. thng hai (second month), thng ba (third month), etc. Vietnamese also commonly use the Western month names. 6 The cy nu is a bamboo pole decorated with various items deemed to bring good fortune and ward off evil.



t province with an extended family of 11. I have observed the preparations made for T by individuals and families, including the skilful making of the festive rice cakes (see t goods. below), and accompanied people to markets and supermarkets to purchase T My observations have been supplemented with extensive interviews with HCMC families and individuals as well as with experts (academics with specialised knowledge t, religious officials in pagodas and temples and purveyors of specialised T t proof T ducts such as votive papers). This material has been enhanced by 12 Tt diaries kept t family activities are on my behalf by high school and university students, in which T documented in detail over a number of weeks, often accompanied by colour photographs. A fair amount of information has been gleaned through perusal of documentary sources and newspaper archives; in addition the news media report extensively on t-related issues each year, commenting on topics such as price rises, currency T shortages and the availability of goods. I have also attended and documented a t, usually in the company of associwide variety of public activities associated with T ates and research assistants and interviewed officials of Saigontourist Holding t festivities in the city. The latter Company, the organiser of the main public T have included exhibitions, street parades, music shows, the spectacular annual floral display in the citys streets and rice cake-making competitions. Flower markets, callit exhibitions at places such as the graphy craft markets, flower shows in city parks, T t messYouth Cultural Centre in District One,7 and public billboards which display T ages and slogans have provided additional information on the nature and significance t in the city. of T t festivals is My own intensive and enjoyable experience of three successive T directly related to the object of this paper, which is to consider the nature of placet, and the relationships between different kinds of sites associated making during T t in HCMC. I wish to explore the ways in which these places are used in with T t by residents of the city, how people and things move between the construction of T and within them, and to consider what such movements and linkages imply for our understanding of festive sites in the urban environment. In doing this I believe that t as a lived experience, and that certain implione gains insights into the nature of T cations arise that enable one to question conventionally accepted structural binaries such as sacred and secular, public and private, and the production and consumption (or construction) of place. t is in many senses sacred time, time set apart from the everyday and time for T worship, and through it activities which would otherwise be regarded as secular (e.g. going to market to buy everyday necessities) are infused with a sacred character, so this is probably the easiest of the three binaries to deal with. Nevertheless, it remains t flower show or a street parade should be necessary to show how something like a T regarded as non-secular. It is also worth pointing out that in a world where secularisation is still sometimes seen as a dominating trend and associated with modernisation,8 the otherwise secular can at times be fused with and dominated by the sacred in a rapidly modernising society such as Vietnam.
7 Nh Vn Ha Thanh Nin, on Pham Ngoc Thac h Street, District 1. 8 Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 34.



Although the categories of private and public remain distinct in many ways, the material that I present below will demonstrate how they also interpenetrate and influence each other. The conflation of public and private space in the everyday life of urban Vietnam has been noted before and in this article I show how this conflation t.9 This revolves mainly around the family home, and I will show occurs during T how the home is linked to a variety of other sites in the city and thus has to be understood in relation to the nature of these sites and the activities of family members within them. The distinction between the social production and consumption of place is now largely redundant, given the development of the notion of the social construction of place frequently used by social scientists. However, there are considerable ambiguities within and around this term, and the notion that the way a place is made (e.g. placemaking) is somehow separate from the way it is conceived or used (e.g. place attachment, resistance to place, spatial tactics) persists in various forms.10 My argument will question the usefulness of this distinction even though it retains and uses the terms production and consumption (or construction) as analytical categories. In looking t I am not trying to theorise the city, but rather to theat the sites associated with T orise the festival as it is made by people in the city and to analyse the nature of festive place-making. Nevertheless, this also amounts to saying something about the nature t landscape in HCMC and therefore about the city. I do not regard this as a of the T landscape produced and then consumed by urban residents; rather, it is a landscape t, that emerges through social practice, one enacted by residents as they celebrate T each in their own unique way, but nevertheless acting in terms of certain established precedents, expectations, family circumstances, religious convictions, economic imperatives and the like. However, insofar as this takes place within the city it also involves a seasonal construction of the city as festive landscape. The conventional distinction between production and consumption would view sites (and sights) in the city as transformed (produced) for those who flock there to enjoy (consume) them. t activities This would be a very partial and incomplete view of the nature of the T and practices in HCMC, as we shall see. Instead, I argue that it is what people do that frequently constitutes both the production and consumption of space simultaneously, at a variety of places in the city, and these activities frequently link or connect different places in a holistic manner. t, people act in accordance with their knowledge and expectations In living T t and in terms of their individual circumstances. There are, of course, general about T t is all about; certain ideals, values, norms, expectations and notions about what T symbols associated with it which are detailed in existing, often idealised accounts,11 t, they do not enable us to specify but although these may help to understand T what the lived experience of Tt is like or enable one to appreciate the temporal
9 Lisa B.W. Drummond, Streetscapes: Practices of public and private spaces in Vietnamese cities, Urban Studies 37, 12 (2000): 237791. 10 Setha M. Low, Spatializing culture: The social production and social construction of public space in Costa Rica, in Theorizing the city: The new urban anthropology reader, ed. Setha M. Low (Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 1999), pp. 11137; The anthropology of space and place: Locating culture, ed. Setha M. Low and Denise Lawrence-Zuniga (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), p. 20. t holidays; Hu t. n Vn Huy, T 11 Nguy u Ngoc and Cohen, T



t. Furthermore, it is through and contingent nature of urban place-making during T t as a form of social practice that the connections between the home and seeing T other places, as well as between the sacred and the secular, and between private and public, may be identified and interrogated. This tension between the economic and social realities impinging on individual agents and the existence of normative t runs throughout the paper and is addressed in the conventions associated with T conclusion.
The home

Taking the family home (nh)12 as my starting point, I will adopt what Ingold (following Heidegger) calls the dwelling perspective13 in terms of which the world continually comes into being around the inhabitant, and its manifold constituents take on significance through their incorporation into a regular pattern of life activity, rather than the individual acting in terms of some cultural text or in terms of a pret existing symbolic structure.14 As the most significant annual festival in Vietnam, T touches on virtually every aspect of Vietnamese culture, and to attempt to specify its symbolic structure would thus be a laborious and almost pointless task. Ingolds dwelling perspective is similar in some ways to that suggested earlier by Michel de Certeau in his analysis of spatial practices. To de Certeau, space is practiced place. The residents of a city space make its features meaningful to them by the ways in which they use them, creatively selecting in terms of their particular inclinations and interests, in this way producing meaningful space out of what is a temporally fixed place. In walking the city people connect places, they weave places together in their practices and in this way spatializing, that is, making and experiencing the city for themselves.15 Later approaches in urban sociology adopt a similar perspective, at least in part, by attending to the social construction of urban space through the daily activity and interaction of people.16 De Certeaus comparison of this with the speech act clarifies his meaning: Walking the city constitutes a series of illocutionary acts or performances,17 which create spaces by imposing meaning on place. Just as language contains potential, so does the city as a collection of places. Just as speech realises this potential, so does walking the city realise the potential of place by creating meaningful spaces within it through the practices involved in relation to these. Just as speech acts often exist in relationship with each other, in a series (e.g. criticism offence taken apology offered apology accepted, etc.), so are the spaces created by the walker related to each other in a meaningful way
12 The word nh (ci nh, ngi nh or nh) can refer to a building or a house, but also to the concept of a home occupied by a family (gia nh, nh). It can also mean wife. It is distinct from the notion of natal or original home (qu huong). 13 Tim Ingold, Building, dwelling, living: How animals and people make themselves at home in the world, in Shifting contexts, ed. Marilyn Strathern (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 5780. 14 Tim Ingold, The perception of the environment: Essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 153. 15 Michel de Certeau, The practice of everyday life, trans. Steven Randall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984 [1974]), pp. 978. 16 Urban imaginaries: Locating the modern city, ed. Avel inar and Thomas Bender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), p. 25. 17 John L. Austin, How to do things with words (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), pp. 4, 109.



as part of the walkers life experience and within a particular social context. This is a useful perspective that complements Ingold and informs my analysis. Of course the places in a city also have what we might term meaningful pasts, i.e. they are not t their previous meanings are encountered anew each time, but in the context of T transformed and linked to other places in new and creative ways. The home, in particular, is a place in de Certeaus sense only as a building before it is inhabited, after which it becomes meaningful space as it is lived from day to day and in relation to t is one. specific contexts, of which T In making use of the dwelling perspective to understand the nature of festive place-making in the home, I take my lead from the Vietnamese themselves, who t primarily as family time; many of the activities associated with it take think of T place in the family home and involve kin relations. The home has some advantages t, because if one does make a distinction between over other sites associated with T the social production of place and its consumption or social construction,18 it is apparent that these converge in the home and involve the same people, the co-resident kin group who, through the transformations that they effect in and around the house, experience home in a special way. They do not merely prepare it t, but also celebrate T t by preparing for it. The same prinfor the celebration of T t, at other places in the urban environment, ciple is evident also in other aspects of T as we shall see. Through these activities people transform and give special temporal t period while reinforcing and and spatial meaning to their homes during the T expressing the importance of family and kinship. But in order to do this, connections with other places and relations with others in these places are necessary. The home t and its residents cannot be seen in isolation from the wider social process of T that it and many other people, places and things within HCMC and its immediate (and sometimes not so immediate) vicinity are part of. This involves examining the t activities, and the nature of the urban landscape as it is made relevant through T significance and interconnectedness of places (including the home) within this landscape. Using the dwelling perspective we are also able to see how and why the home becomes a kind of heterotopia in Foucauldian terms, and its status as such is considered in the penultimate section of the paper. In considering the relationship between place and landscape, Ingold asserts that any place within a landscape embodies the whole at a particular nexus within it, and in this respect is different from every other. And he explains the uniqueness of place thus:
A place owes its character to the experiences it affords to those who spend time there to the sights, sounds and indeed smells that constitute its specific ambience. And these, in turn, depend on the kinds of activities in which its inhabitants engage. It is from this relational context of peoples engagement with the world, in the business of dwelling, that each place draws its unique significance.19

It is the embodiment of the whole in each place within the urban landscape that I am interested in developing insights into here. It is the connections between the activities,
18 Low and Lawrence-Zuniga, The anthropology of space and place, p. 20. 19 Ingold, The perception of the environment, p. 192.



sights, sounds, tastes and smells associated with places that I will stress. I will argue t in HCMC as taking place at a number of different sites that it is not useful to see T with different values or meanings and that what is required instead is an understanding of how people act in relation to places and make connections between them over time as part of a social process that constitutes their construction and experience of t. It is through their practice that people provide sites with meaning and make T places into spaces in de Certeaus sense, but it is also through their practice that different places and qualities (such as sacred and secular, public and private) are linked and partially conflated and that the relationships between them can be discerned. This t landscape as a particuprovides us with an appreciation of the whole of the T lar seasonal construction of the HCMC urban landscape and the environment in t festival. In other words, participating in T t which it is situated, and of the T involves a temporal series of embodied actions and interactions that links places as well as people, and that embeds aspects of places into each other. Thus, after considering the home, I will look at how the home is implicated in the simultaneous social production and construction of place with and by other, extrat practices within the home. T t domestic actors, and at how this feeds back into T is too complex, diverse and extensive to consider all aspects of in a single paper, so it has been necessary to select those aspects relevant to my theme and objective. t ritual and worship as they take place both within and I will consider aspects of T beyond the home, the ways in which business owners construct and experience t, and the ways in which the citys streets are transformed and lived in during T the festival, including the role of civic authorities.
t at home Experiencing Te

Given the ubiquity and importance of ancestor veneration in Vietnam, it is hard to separate sacred and secular in examining what happens in the home at any time of t. Renewal in homes in preparation for the year, and perhaps particularly so during T Tt is simultaneously preparation for the renewed presence of the dead, who are wort unfolds. Ancestor worship shipped and attended to at various times and places as T coexists in harmony with faiths such as Buddhism and Christianity, but a variety of t other deities and spiritual beings are worshipped in and around the home during T as well as at other places of worship. Renewing the home annually in preparation for the New Year includes activities such as spring-cleaning, repainting and refurbishment, in which different members of t, removing dust and dirt symbothe family work cooperatively. In the lead up to T lically removes any ill fortune of the past year, while also preparing to welcome kin, living and dead, as well as other visitors, in the first few days of the New Year and to renew relationships with them. Ancestral altars are cleaned and renewed; brass candlesticks and censers are polished; ancestral tablets or framed photographs of the dead restored. This preparation clearly involves links to a variety of other sites, e.g. shops that polish and repair brass items and those that sell religious paraphernalia. This renewal also extends to individuals, who purchase new clothes, get their hair t. done and so on, in the frantic burst of consumption activity leading up to T Ending the old year in a positive way like this is believed to help ensure that the New Year, too, will be full of good things.



t include everyday necessities but also many special Purchases in the run-up to T t, so the social experience of going to market or superitems, bought only during T market at this time of the year accords with decisions made about what to purchase t based on knowledge of the festival and past experiences of participating in it. for T Home and market/supermarket are linked. Thus, the meanings that people enact in making purchases at retail sites, as with the later visit to the city centre to enjoy the sights, is distinctive, different from everyday procurement of food and other necessities, and this meaning is created with the needs of the home in its engagement with t in the minds of the consumers as well as suppliers and retailers. T t the house is transformed in other ways too. In some At various points during T homes rooms are temporarily cleared and outside areas readied for the assembly and cooking of festive rice cakes, which requires a large open floor space to accommodate a number of people working cooperatively and a large wood fire outside for the cooking of the cakes, which are usually prepared in large numbers.20 This takes a number of hours, during which time the members of the household and their helpers (usually kin and perhaps one or two close friends) relax, play cards for low stakes and catch up t ideal, this is a time for pleasant sociability with each others news. In terms of the T and the reinforcement of kinship ties. t Transformation of space outside the house also occurs at various times in the T calendar when temporary altars are erected on balconies or at front entrances, such as t eve (giao tha) worship (see below) or on the eighth day after T t, for star for the T 21 worship (cng sao). Tt rituals welcoming or sending off the ancestors (ng b, t tin) usually require supplementing the already heavily laden ancestral altar with a table on which food and other offerings are placed for worship prior to the family meal that follows immediately afterwards. t there is extensive worship in and about the house on a number of During T days as the ancestors are invited into the home to join the living for the festival, and provided with special food and other offerings. These are also occasions for special meals, with a range of symbolically important dishes linking living kin to their ancestors, to their regional and national identities, and to their places of origin. Among the common offerings on the ancestral altar is a five fruits bowl (mm ng , which symbolises the good fortune and prosperity hoped for in the coming qua) year.22 Another is the festive rice cake, made at home, received as a gift, or bought at the market or supermarket, the style of which enables identification with the nation and its origins, as well as with one of the countrys three main regions north, centre or south. Rice cakes are also an important food offering on ancestral altars,
20 This applies only to a minority. The majority of homes in HCMC purchase their festive rice cakes at markets and supermarkets. 21 The aim of star worship is primarily to offset the bad luck thought to befall people born under certain stars in the particular year being ushered in. It is also called cng sao giai han worship stars to drive away bad luck. Some informants point out that it is directed not at these stars themselves, but at the mystical beings associated with them. ), coconut (da), papaya 22 The five fruits bowl often consists of custard apple or sour sop (mng cu , mango (xoi) and wild fig (cy sung) or another fruit such as dragon fruit (thanh long). These (u u) symbolise the desired quality of life in the New Year, since the names of these fruits when strung together form an expression in Vietnamese that translates as pray to have enough money to spend or pray for happiness and to have enough money to spend, depending on which fruits are included.



manifesting the important symbolic link between rice and kinship, and an important item of gift exchange between kin and friends.23 Both items the five fruits bowl and the rice cakes are also experienced in public (non-domestic) religious settings, as we shall see, linking the home with sites outside of it. t ritual, then, discussed more fully below, is concentrated in the home, which T serves as an axis mundi,24 a social, cosmological and emotional centre around which the universe revolves and to which it is connected in various ways, and in relation to t as a whole is lived and made meaningful. How this is done always involves which T agency. For example, people choose which style of rice cake to make or purchase, and thus which region/s to identify with, and it is possible to choose more than one style t meaningful to and region, depending on the familys history. How they make T themselves thus varies accordingly. The home as a centre that references and cont allows one to view it as both utopia denses other sites of significance during T and heterotopia. t also include receiving visits from Important activities within the home during T kin and friends, exchanging gifts and news with them, and making reciprocal visits. In this way the home is connected to others, and kinship and friendship bonds are acted t is frequently an occasion for an extended family reunion, with out and renewed. T members gathering in the house of the most senior member of the kin group where they worship in turn at ancestral altars as they arrive and partake in a communal meal. In a similar vein, urban families sometimes receive kin from afar who come t those living abroad permanently or temporarily, or relatives to visit during T from the rural hinterland. None of these people arrives empty-handed; they carry with them gifts from their home areas, often special items not easily obtainable in HCMC, making further material connections between the home and other places. These sorts of connections are made also by reciprocal visiting and gift exchange between neighbours and friends, and between business associates, and it is thought t. Each home can proper to visit teachers or former teachers on the third day of T be seen as the centre of a social network which is manifested through the practice of visiting and gift exchange. The home is also connected to many other places, to other sites in and around t turns on how and to what extent the members of the city. The experience of T the home make and experience these connections and in the ways in which these other sites are linked to the home itself. Here we need to examine the nature of the social activities at various sites, the connections between these sites, and between t through their actions them and the home, to appreciate how people actively make T in and between places over time. This is an important aspect of the dwelling with t that I have been given which we are concerned here. Many of the accounts of T in interviews and in Tt diaries emphasise not only the sociality associated with places, but also movement between places between homes, home and market, home and pagoda, between cities and towns, from place to place within a city and so on.25
Nguy n, Glutinous rice. 23 Xun Hin 24 Hilda Kuper, The language of sites in the politics of space, in The anthropology of space and place, pp. 24763. t diaries were kept for me by high school and university students, in which their T t activities are 25 T detailed. In most cases these were followed up with interviews to enable the students to elaborate on what



These recollections tell not only of places but also of experiences in between places, of events and people encountered, things seen and noted, and of the social activities of others. One of these was from a student, Trang. What stood out in Trangs recollect 2009 memorable for her, was that on returning from a social tion, and what made T gathering one day she saw the President of the country and his entourage visiting a disabled war veteran in his suburban residence, an event witnessed purely by t chance.26 Trangs close friend, Thuy, somewhat to my surprise, highlighted the T experience of being stuck in traffic jams, which she said enabled her to take in and t atmosphere. Pressed further on this she elaborated: many of the motorenjoy the T cycles on the road carried young families, she pointed out, usually en route to the city t street lights and atmosphere, and this sight conveyed to her the centre to enjoy the T t as a family festival. These accounts of T t also significance and enjoyment of T emphasise things associated with sites that sometimes connect different places food and drink consumed, gifts given and received, photographs taken at particular spots, items purchased in markets, votive offerings obtained and burnt later at t as a lived and holistic experience home and so on. This emphasises the view that T unfolds over time between as well as within places as people walk the city and make connections between them. This movement involves and facilitates social relationships between people, between the living and the dead, between mystical beings and the subjects who worship them, and indeed between different kinds of supernatural beings themselves, as indicated below.
t worship Te

t activities are non-earthly Some of the obviously sacred sites associated with T spiritual sites; others are earthly ones, but with spiritual significance. The home connects to the heavens, to an ancestral graveyard, to the ancestors in the underworld or in heaven, to pagodas or churches, and to other sites associated with the supernatural, in various ways spatially, temporally, materially and spiritually. The dwelling perspective enables us to see this as part of the larger pattern of connections involving t for themselves. activity and interaction through which people construct T The explicitly religious aspects of Tt commence on the twenty-third day of the last lunar month (thng chap) when the kitchen god, ng To or To Qun,27 is worshipped with gifts and offerings to enable him to travel to heaven to give his annual report on the family to the Jade Emperor, the supreme being (Ngoc Hong Thuon g ). He is provided with a special meal and votive offerings obtained from specialist purveyors at the market are burnt. Sending the kitchen god away initiates a series of ritual actions which take place over the next two or three weeks, with the details varying from family to family, but within which certain patterns and commonalities can be identified. Some of these are mentioned here in order to illustrate the nature of t, and the links between the home and other places, ritual place-making during T
they had written. Young people, in particular, are likely to move about within and experience the urban t, but their diaries also detail the movements made by their elders and by whole landscape during T families. 26 Political and civic authorities commonly take advantage of the festive period to honour war dead and pay homage to those who served in the armed forces in the past. 27 ng To is three persons (or three deities) in one but is normally referred to in the singular.



but it needs to be borne in mind that this is only part of a much more detailed and varied series of ritual actions and events. On the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth day of the last lunar month ancestral graves, if accessible, are visited, tidied and cleaned, often in company with kin from other homes, and the deceased are invoked and worshipped with flowers, food and incense. These are placed on the graves together with votive offerings (hng m clothes and other accessories, television sets, vehicles, imitation money, etc., all made from paper or cardboard) which are burnt at the foot of the grave itself or nearby and thereby transferred to and used by the dead in the underworld. In the invocations to the dead the latter are told why the living have come, what they are doing, and what they wish for in the New Year for themselves and their families. This practice of m (tending the graves) again highlights the importance of the family, which tao include the dead as well as the living, and is part of the ongoing relationship between living and dead on which the happiness and well-being of both depend. It is followed by kin meeting with each other, worshipping at ancestral altars, eating a communal meal and exchanging news. For many urban families, however, graves are too far away in their original towns or villages, and cremation means that many ancestors do not have grave sites at all. Pagodas and churches offer acceptable substitutes; t) in which ashes of the deceased are kept they have special rooms (nh hi c in jars, and dedicated altars at which congregants may place photos of their dead relat people visit these places in order to worship and tives. In the days leading up to T make offerings to their ancestors and to participate in prayers for the dead by priests t services for and monks. Theravada pagodas and Catholic churches have special T the dead, the former before Tt itself, the latter on the second day of the New Year.28 Religious activity on the last day of the lunar year also illustrates the importance of kinship and of links with dead kin, and includes a late morning or mid-day ritual at t and provided with food and which the ancestors are welcomed into the home for T votive offerings,29 followed by a family meal. Ancestral altars are prepared for this event, laden with fruit and flowers, and with gifts from various sources. Worship takes place also at the other altars in the home, of which there are usually several, t altar (bn th thin altar for the heaand culminates with worship at a special T vens) near the front door or outside on a balcony at the midnight hour, the sacred moment marking the transition to the New Year. This transition and its associated ritual are known as giao tha. The object is to secure the blessings of the gods for the New Year and to keep misfortune away. More specifically, the supreme being (Ngoc Hong) is said to send one of his 12 mandarins to look after the earth every year, and on this occasion the new mandarin is welcomed and the previous one ), such as people who thanked. It is also a time when homeless spirits (cng c hn died in warfare and did not receive a proper burial, and who are thought of as wandering the streets and potentially dangerous, are placated. In some families this is immediately preceded by worship in front of the altars inside the house and it is at
28 Monks in Mahayana pagodas say that they do not hold such a service because praying for the dead is t is one of the festive periods during which prayer a normal part of everyday worship. Nevertheless, T services for the dead are held in these pagodas most frequently, due to popular demand. t nin (worship for finishing the old year); also ruc ng b (welcome the 29 This is termed cng t ancestors).



this time that the kitchen god returns from his journey. Immediately after giao tha or early the following morning, Buddhist families go to a nearby pagoda to participate in the formal worship that takes place there to mark the New Year, receive li xi (lucky money) from the celebrant, and perhaps eat some food afterwards. On the first day of the New Year, pagodas are full of people from morning till night. Many devout Buddhists, often women of the middle or older generation, undertake a pilgrimage to a number of pagodas, often in small groups of friends and/or kin who hire a vehicle to take them to worship in different pagodas in succession, believing that this will bring them special blessings and benefits.30 Attendance at t and many people provide the pagoda services continues on a regular basis during T monks with donations and ask them to add the names of their kin in need of prayer to the lists kept there and displayed on pagoda walls. Famous pagodas that have what are t. Some of these are within believed to be special qualities are very popular during T easy reach of HCMC, such as the pagoda associated with the Jade Emperor, not far from the city centre, or One Pillar pagoda in Thu c (modelled after a pagoda of Php pagoda on the citys outskirts. Other the same name in Hanoi), or Hong famous pagodas, such as Cha B en (the Black Lady pagoda) in Ty Ninh pro c, both near the vince or B Cha X (Lady of the Realm pagoda) in Chu Cambodian border, require at least a days excursion, but nevertheless draw thousands t, many of them from HCMC.31 These pagodas are established of visitors during T places but they are not experienced passively by those who patronise them during t. Nor are they experienced uniformly: the faithful who go there make T t meanT ingful to themselves, expressing their wishes for the New Year and their thanks for past blessings through their prayers, invocations, offerings, purchases and other actions at these sites, which in turn are linked to their individual economic and social t. circumstances, to their beliefs, and to their expectations and understandings of T Philip Taylor has vividly illustrated the kind of variability in the motivations, actions, and attitudes that exists among worshippers in his study of B Cha X.32 Religious activities also take place at certain sites associated with former national or regional heroes who are worshipped as sources of good fortune and spiritual soothsayers. The temple and mausoleum devoted to the early nineteenth-century southern statesman and military commander L Vn Duyt , known simply as Lng (His Lordships ng (His Lordships Mausoleum)33 or Lng ng B Chiu
h literally 10 pagoda sights, or hnh 30 This practice is known in Sino Vietnamese as thp tu vn can huong thp tu 10 pagoda pilgrimage. The number varies; it might be 9, 10, or 13 different pagodas. These excursions or pilgrimages (hnh huong) are also often organised by individual pagodas. They offer an opportunity for worship and instruction but also for enjoyment and sociability. A similar practice in the Hanoi area has been described by Alex Soucy, Pilgrims and pleasure seekers, in Consuming urban culture in contemporary Vietnam, ed. Lisa B.W. Drummond and M. Thomas (London: Routledge Curzon, 2003), pp. 12537. A general analysis of pilgrimage in southern Vietnam is provided by Philip Taylor, Goddess on the rise: Pilgrimage and popular religion in Vietnam (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004). 31 Religious practices in Vietnam cannot be categorised as simply urban or rural, and most of those who patronise famous and popular rural religious sites are from outside the local area; see Taylor, Goddess on the rise, pp. 11415. 32 Taylor, Goddess on the rise, p. 50. 33 The translation is taken from Taylor, Goddess on the rise, p. 78. A simpler rendering might be Sirs tomb.



is one such site. The temple associated with thirteenthMausoleum at B Chiu), Hung ao century national hero and naval commander, Trn , is another. At Lng ng people worship, burn incense, and make offerings to L Vn Duyt , seek to know their future through a variety of divinatory means (including xin keo, xin xm),34 and attempt to secure luck for the forthcoming year and for their lives in general by buying and freeing birds, touching items in the temple and smoothing the good fortune onto themselves and so on. At this time pagodas and temples such as these are surrounded by a variety of people other than worshippers purveyors of incense and other religious goods, beggars seeking alms, people selling lottery tickets, t, their dwelling, is flower sellers, fortune tellers and so on. Their experience of T somewhat different from those who go there to pray and divine the future, but with whom they interact. t members of the Cao i faith make a pilgrimage to their spiritual During T centre in Ty Ninh province, while Catholic churches offer a series of services, parallel t activities of Buddhists on the first three days of the New Year. in some ways to the T These too provide both spiritual and physical connections to the home and thus enable us to extend the dwelling perspective in another direction. Catholics honour t, and bring home a paper and pray for their dead kin on the second day of T inscribed with a biblical quote or inspirational saying which they place on the altars in their homes alongside statues of Jesus or Mary and photographs of ancestors. At pagodas and temples people obtain various items which they take away with them and which help them to prepare for the New Year a small card bearing an inspirational or devotional saying, a leaf or bud picked there (this act is known as hi lc , to gather luck) or the leaf of a plant called pht ti (meaning become wealthy). Pagodas and churches are also retail outlets for items such as religious tracts, incense sticks, statues, portraits of deities, wall hangings and the like, which make their way t. It is not necessary here to provide details of the various rituals into homes during T and forms of worship that follow the sending off of the ancestors35 and which continue until the fifteenth day, the first full moon of the New Year. Some of these will be referred to briefly below. To summarise the analysis at this point, the empirical material provided has indicated various connections between places and people, in relation to a variety of ritual t activities. It seems clear that we have to think about T t places within and other T the urban landscape of HCMC (and its hinterland) in terms of how people make them significant, and in relational terms what connects them, how and why t provides us with the opporthey are connected, and how they constitute a whole. T tunity to view and analyse a chronotope, in Bhaktins sense, a complex intersection of
34 Xin xm (meaning choose a lot or ask the oracle) at Lng ng involves shaking a container full of numbered sticks until one of them eases itself out of the bunch and falls to the ground. The number and colour on the lot thus chosen corresponds with a particular prediction of the future which can then be obtained in printed form from a nearby counter. If more than one falls out and there is uncertainty about which one to count, or if there is an issue that the client wishes to confirm in a yes/no manner, xin keo (a pair of wooden blocks, yin [m] and yang [duong], one white and one red) is consulted; here L Vn Linh), provides the answer by causing the blocks to appear in a parDuyt , referred to as God (Thn ticular way when they are thrown to the ground, a yin and yang combination being confirmation. 35 In the case of homes where the ancestors are not sent away, they are simply informed that there will be no more special meals for them.



temporal and spatial sequences which correspond with each other,36 similar to what Ingold has termed a taskscape, a set of related heterogeneous activities that unfold t.37 Here time and over a social period, in this case, the time associated with T space come together and are joined in a variety of places within which human acts demarcate them as set apart both temporally and spatially, but also as connected to each other materially, sequentially, experientially and ideologically. In the following sections I illustrate this further, first by looking at how one sector of the urban comt meaningful, and how this somemunity, business people or shop-owners, make T t activities times intersects with ethnic or cultural identity. Second, I detail some T made possible by the local government authority, and how people participate in these. Here too, with the use of the dwelling perspective, one can discern important connections between places as made by people, and extend the argument presented so far.
Business, home and ethnicity

t, retailers gear up for the festival Given the domestic material necessities for T t goods. weeks in advance, providing household necessities as well as specialised T Retail sites too are transformed for Tt; they are sites produced for festive consumers, t experience. But the production and patronising them is an important part of the T of these sites by shop and market stallholders is also a significant part of their own t. Business people, retailers and shop-owners also occupy their construction of T own homes and the shop is often a physical extension or integral part of the residence, t from this perspective also. so we need to look at T For Saigonese who own a business, their experience of home, business and pagoda (or church) may be connected in a specific way. Like other Saigon residents, shopkeepers often have an altar on the floor in the living room of their homes for ng Ti (God of wealth). They usually also have such ia (God of the land) and ng Thn an altar in their shop or business premises, if the latter is physically separate from the t this is supplemented with mai home, at which they regularly worship, and during T t flowers and mandarin trees, floral and paper decorations, etc., to give the shop a T flavour. The tenth day of the first lunar month is a special day for the worship of Thn Ti, and it is primarily business owners who practise this ritual. Where the shop is an t altar for all the gods of the heavens may be placed at extension of the home, the T the front entrance of the shop, which may also be the front entrance of the home. Furthermore, many of the people who visit Lng ng are shop-owners, who do so in order to ensure the future success of their business. Clearly, the secularsacred and publicprivate distinctions are hard to find here, and multiple connections are t. made between the home-shop and other sites during T t as it is As retailers, shop-owners and market stallholders are implicated in T constructed and experienced by others through their retail activities, and their own t has to do with the interpenetration of home and business as construction of T well as with the multitude of interactions and negotiations with their customers,
36 Mikhail Bakhtin, Forms of time and of the chronotope in the novel, in The dialogic imagination: Four essays, ed. Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp. 84258. 37 Ingold, The perception of the environment, p. 200.



t bonuses). It is they who help to make suppliers and employees (who usually get T t and to attract people to the city. Finally, markets the streets what they are during T t, again changing the nature of and businesses are closed for a number of days over T the city as landscape and the experience of it, but precisely when they open varies, depending on the proprietors assessment of which is an auspicious day to do so. t with worship and a Many shops signal the fact that they have reopened after T special altar at the front entrance directed at the earth god, Th ia. 38 So while their homes may share many of the elements of Tt with non-shop-owners, the t dwelling perspective forces us to examine how they connect various urban T sites through their business and associated practices or, to put it slightly differently, t connects various people and places in the how the way in which they live T urban landscape. What this brief look at shop-owners rather obviously suggests is that the experit varies across groups and individuals in the city, with the ence and meaning of T connections between sites, and between sites and homes, made in varying ways. But there are nevertheless certain general patterns that can be discerned, and some that link certain kinds of activities with certain kinds of social groups based on factors such as age, gender, occupation and ethnicity. The HCMC district known as Cho Ln is associated with Vietnamese of Chinese origin and ethnicity. Not only do differt practices ent subgroups within this broad ethnic category have certain distinctive T 39 (e.g. relating to food), but they also signal their general distinctiveness as Chinese t by embodying it publicly in specific ways. One of these is Vietnamese during T the practice of carrying large burning incense sticks from pagodas and temples back to their homes, usually on motorbikes. This explicit linking of temple/pagoda worship with the well-being of the home is something that other Saigon residents generally do not practise in this particular manner they worship with incense in pagodas and at home but generally do not transport burning incense between the two. What connects this topic (Chinese ethnicity) to the previous one (shop-owners) is that in HCMC there is an association between the two in the minds of many residents.
t in the streets Te

t, the streets of HCMC are transformed and become a space of conDuring T t templation, leisure and enjoyment. How the members of the home experience T is related to the extent to which they leave their homes and help to make various places in the urban landscape. This is an important aspect of the analysis based on the dwelling perspective that I have been developing so far and involves various connections between places not yet mentioned. Large businesses and hotels decorate their t themes, some spectacularly so, and viewing and enjoying these are premises with T t. Dragon and unicorn dancers and part of the attraction of visiting the city during T their accompanying musicians are hired by businesses to perform in front of their premises (to bring good luck for the New Year). They are accompanied by a variety Ti and ng ia of other acts as well as by men in Thn dress and masks who dance
38 Some say that this altar is also for the homeless ghosts who wander the streets, to keep them placated and ensure that they will not trouble the business. Hng Lin, personal communication. 39 Professor Trn



into the business or shop in order to remove evil influences and bring it good fortune. Ti and ng ia Sometimes Thn figures go around from shop to shop by themselves accompanied by a small percussion band, collecting donations as they do so, sometimes posing for photographs with sightseers. As indicated above, most Vietnamese Ti and ng ia homes also have Thn on a single small altar on the floor in the front room of the house, where they are worshipped on a daily basis, making for another symbolic link between home and the city.40 t, The citys Peoples Committee sponsors a variety of entertainments during T including free public music shows and other events. There are also many billboards t messages, often in combination with political that transform streets and offer T ones, and at night the main streets are beautifully and lavishly lit. Youth centres and other public institutions stage concerts and exhibitions, and well-known buildings and monuments are bedecked with appropriate slogans. Some of these places host craft markets at which artists attired in the garb of traditional calligraphists t artefacts such as the well-known parallel sentences produce and sell T (ng ) which are bought and hung on walls in homes. Parks are transformed into flower and bonsai markets, or into displays of floral and other forms of decorative art. These productions, too, may incorporate political messages and be sites of social memory Tao n parks flower show in 2009 included a large replica of the H Ch Minh Trail with accompanying photographs and illustrations. In Pham Ng Lo, 23rd September Park becomes a market for the mai tree and other plants in t. The mai trees yellow blossom is a ubiquitous symbol demand in homes over T of Tt in the South, and the parks name recalls the French reoccupation of Saigon and the start of the resistance that ultimately led to Vietnamese unity and independence. The monument on the street outside the site of the former US Embassy building which commemorates the attack on the Embassy on 31 January 1968 by North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong troops is transformed with banners bearing slogans t Offensive, which is now commemorated every that make explicit its link to the T Tt through slogans, banners, exhibitions and parades, while the memory of those who died in that attack is sacralised through the addition of flowers and incense to t in honour of the fallen. Thus, memories are embodied in the memorial during T the urban landscape through the conscious actions of local political authorities. These are important in facilitating not only a national consciousness, but also the construction of local place and identification with it by local residents.41 Their experience t in the home is thus connected in multiple ways with the ways in which T t is of T made and lived in the city, on its streets, in its parks, its theatres and its places of commerce. There are also unofficial social productions that transform the streets and the t. Here I city, made possible by a degree of licence and tolerance associated with T refer to phenomena ranging from gambling on street corners and in markets that t, to the many unlicensed vendors who occupy police turn a blind eye to during T
Ti and ng ia 40 Thn figures in the home/shop are purchased from specialist dealers and taken to the local pagoda (but not Theravada pagodas) where they are sanctified, before being placed in the home, but this happens at any time of the year. 41 Nadia Lovell, Introduction, in Locality and belonging, ed. Nadia Lovell (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 6.



sidewalks and parks, to the ways in which markets spill over into the streets around t is a them, and to the occupation of sidewalks and open spaces by nearby retailers. T time for businesses and informal, occasional vendors, to make money, and the mart kets and streets reflect this. Here too are a multitude of different ways in which T becomes a lived experience, different in its own way for each participant the moneylender in it for the high rate of interest, the short-term borrower hoping to t items make some quick money over the holiday period, the illegal purveyor of T on a street corner, the shop-owner who temporarily occupies the pavement outside the shop, the gambling operator in the market, his clientele who lose (or, more rarely, make) money there, and the police and other officials who mostly ignore these activit for him or herself through their practices, adding to the overall ties. Each makes T t that is different for each but which nevertheless expresses certain experience of T common themes and patterns without necessarily conforming completely to any fort is or should be. And for the majority of Saigonese who do not mal model of what T fall into these kinds of categories, it is by their actions in and movement through the streets, by their dwelling, that they experience these sights and sounds and out of t is constituted. which a large part of their experience of T
The bnh tt festival

In recent years in HCMC the citys Peoples Committee, through its tourism operation, Saigontourist Holding Company, has sponsored a large Bnh Tt Hi Bnh Tt),42 incorporating a variety of free public concerts, an elabFestival (L n Hu Street in the city centre is transformed into orate floral display in which Nguy a botanical theme park, as well as a spectacular annual street parade (in 20048), drawing both live and television audiences of many thousands. In these events local (HCMC) and regional (southern) themes are prominent, along with national ones. When I witnessed the street parade in 2008 it was led by four floats depicting iconic HCMC buildings, some of them within sight of the audin Thnh Market, Thnh Ph Theatre (also ence as their doubles rolled by B n Nh Rng and the known as the Opera House), the H Ch Minh Museum at B HCMC Peoples Committee building (formerly the Hotel de Ville). These buildings were all extremely familiar to the thousands watching the parade, so one might read this parade as the city depicting itself to itself, showing itself to its citizens for t, implying that their experience of T t them to re-experience in the context of T and their sense of belonging (encouraged by the choreographers if not universally felt) was an experience of the city as depicted by those in power.43 Moreover, this leading and clearly local aspect of the parade does not feature at all as part of the t. A city-wide national image or of the generally accepted symbolic structure of T
42 The name of the festival refers to the festive rice cake associated with the South, called bnh tt, but t, the lunar New Year, from this tt (literally meaning to cut or split) should not be confused with T which it is diacritically distinguished. 43 It is possible that this manipulation of space and the production of spectacle provide an image that helps to establish the legitimacy of the Peoples Committee, and, by extension, the Vietnamese Communist Party, as the provider of entertainment and pleasure for citizens. Don Handelman, Models and mirrors: Towards an anthropology of public events (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 418.



and publicly funded series of festive activities is a relatively recently introduction, but t one that people have quickly become habituated to. Hence peoples experience of T cannot be thought of as synonymous with some kind of symbolic structure associated with it, but has to be assessed in terms of social practice and local realities. Apart from the four iconic buildings, the predominant visual themes in the part in the South, and the ade were the apricot blossom or mai flower, associated with T productive nature of the Souths agricultural economy, depicted by means of enormous imitation fruit, largely of the same kinds found in the five fruits bowl and thus symbolically linked to the altars in peoples homes. The grand finale and highlight of the event made a similar link to home altars and kinship practices: announced t songs sung earlier by dramatic music that contrasted markedly with the popular T by well-known performers, it was the arrival on flat-bed trucks of two giant renditions of bnh tt, the festive rice cakes associated with the South, weighing 3.5 tons each, and culminating with these being offered in solemn worship to the ancestors of the nation (this was made explicit by the master of ceremonies) by the local political leadership, before being cut up and distributed widely to all who wished to partake. Thus, it is hard to separate sacred from secular in the transformation and use of the citys streets for the Bnh Tt festival and the way in which this is experienced, and the metaphoric as well as sensual connection with other places of worship the home, the pagoda is obvious. But it is also evident again here, as it is in t is not only the experience of a national other public places, that the experience of T festival, but of a local one and a regional one. This needs to be understood within the context of a history of NorthSouth rivalry and implicit competition between HCMC n Hu Street and Hanoi. Both the street parade and the floral tableaux in Nguy expressed the economic importance of the South to the nation, and the dominant posn Hu Street also combines (but does ition of both the South and the city. Yet Nguy not conflate) national identity with a regional one. The pink peach blossom associated t in the North is in evidence there each year; Nguy n Hu was a late with T eighteenth-century emperor and military commander who is credited with the unification of Vietnam prior to Western colonisation; and a statue of national hero and architect of the modern united Vietnam, H Ch Minh, stands at the head of the street looking down its length towards the Saigon River. Hi Bnh Tt street parade was discontinued due to the economic When the L t 2009 and again in 2010 with a city-wide downturn of late 2008, it was replaced for T bnh tt-making competition, with each of the citys districts participating, initially in Sen Park, a heats and ultimately in the final round of the competition held at m large leisure and entertainment centre owned by the Peoples Committee. After the winners had been declared, the competition culminated in the winning bnh tt being publicly displayed and offered in worship by groups of high-level City officials at three important city sites the temple of the Hng Kings (founders of Vietnam in n Nh ancient times)44 in the botanical gardens, the H Ch Minh museum at B ng. The Hng Kings temple Rng, and the museum of his successor, Tn c Th
t rice cake, bnh chung, 44 According to Vietnamese legend, the original square version of the festive T u, 18th son of King Hng VII, an which is associated with the North, was the creation of Prince Lng Li invention that was inspired by a dream in which a deity provided a recipe, and which earned him the right to be the next ruler.



is an obviously sacred site, but so are the two museums, each of which has a memorial hall with an altar at which these founding ancestors of modern Vietnam are worshipped. Once again, the city, the South, and the nation were blended together through this competition, and symbolically linked with the home, where bnh tt are traditionally made and consumed. Again, the distinction between sacred and secular, public and private, production and consumption, was blurred.
Home as heterotopia

t is experienced and It is in and in relation to the home and family, then, that T lived. Even in the case of going out to enjoy the city centre with the family or a group of friends, it is from the home that one departs, and to the home that one returns, and in the home that one preserves, communicates and reconsumes the experience through photographs, artefacts and conversation. This is, of course, the case with fest, tivals in many parts of the world. What I have tried to demonstrate in the case of T however, is that each place is metonymically significant and that through metonymic t places are connected in and to the home. The connecconnections these various T tion between the sites is made by people in action, moving between them, linking them with each other materially and cosmologically, embodying them in various ways and making embodied connections between them. The bnh tt that is symbolic of both national and regional identity, paraded through the streets or manifested in competitive display, purchased in markets, or received from friends or kin as gifts, is placed as offering on altars in the home and consumed round the table during t meals by the resident kin group. Thus, places and the event, T t, are contiguous T with each other, enacted and embodied, made meaningful as part of a lived experience t progresses. that unfolds as T Although the home as an imagined site of harmony and ultimate satisfaction may be regarded as a utopia of sorts,45 the analysis that I have presented suggests that in HCMC it can equally be regarded as a heterotopia, i.e. a place that connects to and condenses many other places economic ones, leisure spaces, graveyards, places of worship, historic sites and so on. Foucaults essay on heterotopia has been described as frustratingly incomplete, inconsistent, incoherent, perhaps intentionally so in the opinion of Soja, since any attempt to give it a precise meaning is likely to fail.46 Foucault has also been criticised by Arun Saldanha and others as overly structuralist. However, it is important to consider the notion of heterotopia as an analytical concept that can be applied to a space (or a situation, a performance, an event) rather than to regard it as a space or element within a larger total structure. Certainly, heterotopia is presented by Foucault as a spatial reality, in de Certeaus sense of the term, but it is constituted as such by the relationships that it mirrors or inverts, and my application of the concept here is in accordance with the notion of dwelling as a form of social practice. Viewing the home as a heterotopia in a non-structuralist sense involves viewing it as a scene of practice and as a summary or condensation of the practices associated
45 At home: An anthropology of domestic space, ed. Irene Cieraad (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999), p. 3. 46 Arun Saldanha, Heterotopia and structuralism, Environment and Planning, 40 (2008): 208096.



t that its members are engaged in, as a focal point in their lived experience of with T t to which the practices at other sites in their experience of the city are connected T and aggregated. Utopia and heterotopia are not incompatible, since according to Foucault a heterotopia is a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted and the heterotopia is capable of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible.47 I have shown how this is achieved, how the home becomes a heterotopian reality through social practice t, by showing how it connects to other places through the activities of its during T inhabitants, and how this dwelling mutually incorporates these places symbolically and materially. Home juxtaposes, contests and inverts the separation between living and dead through the ancestral altar and the rituals through which the dead are t, and sent on their way again afterwards. The division between invited home for T private and public is inverted also, through the consumption of produce obtained in the markets by the family, the display on altars of gifts from business associates and friends, and the visits that are made by the latter to the home. The public is made private, the dead are brought back to life, the world outside becomes the world inside (e.g. through television and sightseeing). Both of these inversions reinforce a third juxtaposition and inversion, that between sacred and secular, between place of religious worship and centre of everyday, secular activities. The heterotopoic nature of the home is not constant. It changes with the developmental cycle of the domestic group, with the seasons, and with the economic, social and political circumstances that provide part of its context. Thus, heterotopia is not an essential and unchanging characteristic, but a relative and contingent one. In this respect, regarding the home as heterotopia is also consistent with the idea that such spaces are most often linked to slices in time and function at full capacity t is a tranwhen men arrive at a sort of absolute break with their traditional time.48 T sitional time, a calendrical festival, situating the home betwixt and between normal t practices are geared toward securing a happy and prosperous time of social life. T New Year for the members of a family situated within a home, so the home is a utopia (an imagined reality) in this context of festival time as well as a heterotopia, since heterotopias are spaces of deferral, spaces where ideas and practices that represent the good life can come into being, from nowhere, even if they never actually achieve what they set out to achieve.49

Drawing on practice approaches to the analysis of social life, one can view the t as parts of an urban landscape upon which people extra-domestic aspects of T t in relation to home. act and through which they constitute the meaning of T This is not quite the everyday urban landscape with which they are familiar, but one where certain of its constituent sites are transformed through the actions of a
47 Michel Foucault, Of other spaces, trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics, 16, 1 (1986): 25. 48 Ibid., p. 26. 49 Kevin Hetherington, The badlands of modernity: Heterotopia and social ordering (Routledge: London, 1997), p. ix, cited in Saldanha, Heterotopia and structuralism, p. 2091.



t, calling on their experivariety of agents that produce a landscape appropriate to T t festivals, their knowledge of the traditions of the past and acting ence of previous T in terms of contemporary needs and desires. For each individual, for each home, a practice approach indicates that the landscape becomes a locality and a series of t period, through their linked spaces through their actions upon it during the T thoughtful, conscious and meaning-making dwelling, and this appropriation of the urban landscape and its material elements is what constitutes their experience of t, together with what takes place in the home their private, domestic realm, T which is intimately connected to the public one. In this sense the division between private and public becomes blurred and, partly because of this, the line between t, too, is at least opaque. the sacred and the profane aspects of T t in the city, people connect Through their practice of place-making during T certain places to their home, aided by the exchange of objects between places and people, and make the city theirs, creating their sense of belonging.50 Many originate t rice cakes, visits to natal homes from elsewhere, and they recall this memory via T and other forms of symbolic action, but they also forge a new sense of belonging to the city through blending the home into the city in the way that they do. How they do so varies according to individual histories and circumstances, making the precise t contingent and variable. While certain sites such as the Hng meaning of T n Hu Street do indeed carry relatively constant meanings, Kings Temple or Nguy in the sense of being dominant symbols and having specific values and ideas associt is derived from the ways in which sites ated with them,51 a fuller understanding of T t period. are used and from how they are linked to each other through use over the T This varies from person to person, though there are patterns and regularities that can be discerned within this. As Ingold has pointed out, the notion of dwelling always needs to be contextualised, and in this case, practices are undertaken in the context t handed down from the past, of a framework of knowledge and ideas relating to T t. This knowledge framework is a complex including peoples own experience of T amalgam of generally known aspects of Vietnamese myth, history and tradition, religious beliefs and values, local and regional practices, kinship ideology, and more privately held beliefs and notions of appropriateness operating at the level of individual kin groups and homes. This framework is not static but continuously developing, informed by the past and reflecting social memory as well as individual circumstances; a recent death in the family affects the ways in which the home participates t; historical events such as the T t Offensive in 1968 also change the ideological in T t is understood. So how people imagine aspects of the framework in terms of which T Tt changes over time and according to individual and social circumstances, as well as containing certain relatively invariant elements, and the way in which they live and t into an embodied reality reflects both these tendencies. make T Here, too, we find clarification in de Certeaus approach and in his distinction between place and space. In this paper the spatializing process described involves t festival, to peoples ideas and beliefs about T t, connecting places related to the T
50 Lovell, Introduction, pp. 68. 51 Victor W. Turner, The forest of symbols: Aspects of Ndembu ritual (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 28.



and to their ability and determination to realise the potential that the city holds in t experience. In doing so they live the city in accordtheir quest for a meaningful T t and their social, economic ance with both a structure of ideas and beliefs about T and physical abilities to put these into practice. Place is an order, a structure, an instantaneous configuration of positions52 while space is how that order is realised in practice, which varies according to a number of factors time, season, social t as an ideal mental construct is an and political context and so on. Similarly, T order, and how people realise it in their dwelling depends on their abilities and t is deeply embedded in Vietnamese culture, associated with their choices. Since T t is practised has a disa pattern of activities and beliefs that are widely held, how T cernible pattern that accords with this structure, but which nevertheless demonstrates variety. In this way the connections between places as spatialized through practice t story or narrative, a text that is written through the process of constitute a T t ideals. walking the city and one constructed in relation to and connected with T To use another of de Certeaus metaphors, the one is a map, the other a tour; the former a concept, the latter a series of actions or movements. The map is an abstraction and thus a fiction; the tour is a lived reality.53

52 De Certeau, The practice of everyday life, p. 117. 53 Ibid., pp. 93, 119, 196.