State, Religion and the South China Sea

Fishers, Monks and Cadres: Navigating State, Religion and the South China Sea in Central Vietnam is by Edyta Roszko and published by NIAS Press. It is reviewed for JCA by Minh Chau Lam of the Department of Anthropology, College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

Lam considers Roszko’s book ” a rich and engaging ethnography of two fishing communities in central Vietnam.” It is, he says, one of the first to consider the “complex and tension-laden relation as experienced, mediated, challenged and tactically manoeuvred around by a rarely documented protagonist: fishers.”

The focus is on the triadic relationship between fishing communities, the state and religious authorities. It shows their “social navigation” between state and religion and highlights “their remarkable capacity to respond aptly to rapidly changing geo-political opportunities and challenges associated with the South China Sea.”

Lam concludes that Fishers, Monks and Cadres is:

an original and timely contribution to the scholarly literature on state, religion and coastal and maritime societies in Vietnam. It will be read and enjoyed by students, academics and, it might be hoped, policy makers. Fishers, Monks and Cadres shows that the solutions to the disputes in the South China Sea may come not only from high-level meetings, court rulings and patrol boats, but also from an understanding of the complex material and spiritual life of the fishers and coastal communities.

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