Social Systems of Northern Vietnam

Hickey, Gerald Cannon

     The focus of the present study is on the social and cultural contacts, and the resulting changes, which have taken place between two of the major ethnic groups of northern Vietnam: the Vietnamese and the Thai, specifically, the Black Thai and the Tho.
     In analyzing this process of historical change, the primary objective is to focus on the problem of contact between the Tho and the Vietnamese, and the changes which have occurred in Tho society as a result. The aim is to draw out and isolate these changes. The Black Thai are the control group which represents the Thai features shared with the Tho in their generic relationship. What is Vietnamese in Tho society should emerge in this three-way comparison.
     Changes introduced by the French in Vietnamese, Tho, and Black Thai society are another important dimension of this study. For the most part, these were political and administrative changes which affected the three groups as part of the protectorate of Tonkin organized by the French at the end of [the] nineteenth century. The evidence of these changes is recorded in recent history. This evidence tends to round out the analysis to a great extent in that it adds the more recent and recorded social changes.
     In addition to sorting out the Vietnamese influence in Tho society, compounded with the recent political changes instituted by the French, this analysis of social change raises some essential questions concerning the nature of social systems and related subsidiary questions. This is particularly true when such a comparison is carried out within a well-defined historical and geographical framework. In studying the historical change in Tho society, the question of exactly when the changes occurred is overshadowed by the question of what aspects of Tho society were affected. How profoundly has the alien influence penetrated? Why have some parts of the society remained unaffected? What does this tell us of the conservative and flexible aspects of society and the interrelation between the units of society?

Fred Eggan (chair), Norton Ginsburg