Theses Doctoral

Governing Masculinity: How Structures Shape the Lives and Health of Dislocated Men in Post-Doi Moi Vietnam

Giang, Le Minh

Since the start of Doi Moi (Renovation) over twenty years ago, Vietnam has increasingly opened its society and economy to the global capitalist economy and culture. The country has witnessed numerous changes in all aspect of everyday life, affecting individual men and women, their relationships with each other, and their relationships with other social and political institutions. My dissertation explores the challenges that three groups of dislocated men - men who were migrant laborers from a rural setting; men who were among the first methadone patients in the country; and men who sold sex to other men in Hanoi - were facing as they were struggling to build their manhood and to establish (or reject) aspects of culturally prescribed masculinities in post-Doi Moi Vietnam. I focus on their experiences with three structures, namely the market-bound socialist state, the fledgling capitalist market, and the patriarchal family, that together shape these men's everyday life struggles, their ethics of the self (especially their imagining of themselves as tru cot gia dinh, the pillar of the family), and ultimately their lives and health. I argue that in the context of post-Doi Moi Vietnam, these three powerful structures constitute, and are constituted by, the political economy of the male body, and that this relationship between structure and the body are best represented in the experiences of the men in this study. The male bodies examined here include: the exploitable body of migrant labors whose paths to manhood are limited by their lack of resources and capital other than their own sweat, tears, and flesh; the deviant body of men whose adherence to the regime of state-sponsored methadone is their only hope to recover from social death caused by their past heroin use; and the rejected body of men selling sex to other men who face the "problem of recognition." My analysis shows that their embodied forms of labor, whether on a highway, in a drug treatment center, or in a sexual marketplace, play a critical role in the making of their manhood. Their bodies are at the same time useful and disposable under the logics of power operated by the three powerful structures that offer possibilities, limitations, and various forms of desire (economic, erotic and ethical). While the male body of dislocated men bears great potential for man-making, they are also highly vulnerable to the exploitative practices of the state, to the vagaries of the market, and to disappointment of their own families. My dissertation shows various strategies, however seemingly premature, fragile and sometimes detrimental to their health, which these men deployed to overcome barriers and to make the best use of their limited resources in order to make their road to become tru cot gia dinh. These strategies, I will show, are forms of "strategic" and yet structurally determined decisions and action of these men, and they reflect constrained agency in confrontation with the "structural violence" that shapes experiences of dislocation, marginalization and stigmatization, and aggravates their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. My dissertation contributes to social science theory of men and masculinities by bringing to the center of analysis the lived experiences of men in post-socialist settings that are often at the margin in studies on men and masculinities. My dissertation also contributes to the burgeoning literature on men and HIV/AIDS, and men's health in general, through deepened analysis of the political economy of the male body and the relationship of this political economy with vulnerabilities in relation to HIV/AIDS and other health issues.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Giang_columbia_0054D_10981.pdf Giang_columbia_0054D_10981.pdf application/pdf 8.88 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Parker, Richard G.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 10, 2012