Meet the New Vice President: Hy V. Luong

Hy V. Luong is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto and was elected Vice President of the AAS in the Fall 2019 election.

I discovered anthropology as an undergraduate student at the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1970s. After Berkeley, I pursued my graduate education in anthropology at Harvard University. I chose anthropology for its holistic approach to the study of human behavior, institutions, their reproduction and transformation. Having been born in Vietnam and grown up there in the midst of war, I have maintained a strong interest in Vietnam in the larger context of East-Southeast Asia and globalization.

In 1987, while on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University, I was the first anthropologist from a U.S. institution allowed to do fieldwork in Vietnam, despite an U.S. embargo on the country at the time. I have regularly conducted research in different parts of Vietnam since then, paying close attention to regionally varied sociocultural dynamics in their interplay with colonial and post-colonial states and global forces. Together with members of my research teams, I have conducted intensive and comparative fieldwork in seven communities in three main regions of Vietnam over three decades. I have adopted a longitudinal approach by re-studying these communities over time.

I have published on discourse and language, kinship and social organization, rituals and festivals, gift exchanges and social capital, migration and political economy, and the relation between the state and local populations in Vietnam. My first book, Discursive Practices and Linguistic Meanings: The Vietnamese System of Person Reference (1990), examines the interplay of structure and agency, a major theme in the social sciences. It highlights structural and ideological tension/contradictions in the Vietnamese sociocultural system, as well as speakers’ active choices among person-referring terms in order to structure reality. In my second major book, Tradition, Revolution, and Market Economy in a North Vietnamese Village, 1925-2006 (expanded edition of a 1992 book), I focus on anti-colonial movements and post-colonial restructuring of culture, society, and economy in relation to the capitalist world system and its ideologies, the state, and local sociocultural dynamics.

I am strongly committed to dialogue, mentoring, and research collaboration across disciplines and national boundaries. I have served on six committees and international project teams of the Social Science Research Council over three decades, as well as on the AAS Southeast Asia Council. In those capacities, I have worked effectively with colleagues in other disciplines in North America and Asia. I have also become more eclectic methodologically as a result of inter-disciplinary dialogue on international committees.

I am honored to be elected AAS Vice President. I strongly support AAS’s efforts to engage Asian colleagues in scholarly dialogue, such as AAS-in-Asia, and to provide mentoring to younger researchers through dissertation workshops and similar initiatives. I also believe in the important role of AAS and its members not only in advancing academic knowledge of Asia and Asia’s connections to the rest of the world, but also in policy dialogues on the complex global issues and challenges that we face today.