Kinh Settlers in Viet Nam’s Northern Highlands Natural Resources Management in a Cultural Context
Abstract: This study deals with the Kinh (or Viet) majority people who have migrated from the lowland Red River Delta to the mountainous areas of northern Viet Nam, and their adjustment to a new social and physical environment. Its aim is to analyse the social and cultural consequences for these migrants when settling in communities populated with people who belong to the national ethnic minorities (the Tày, the Giay and the Ngan peoples).Focus is on impacts in new interactive situations. The case is a special one in that it focuses on majority people's adaptation to minorities, and to a lesser extent vice versa. The Kinhs' view of how a "civilised" landscape ought to look like and how to utilise the natural resources therein demonstrated to be a central theme when discussing restructuring of the migrants' livelihood. This fact indicates the cultural dimension in the exploitation of the natural landscape and the reconstruction of the subsistence system. In the process of adaptation to a new social environment (as well as to a new physical one), social interactions between the Kinh and the ethnic minorities have proven to be important steps towards integration. One factor that turned out to be decisive in the integration process is the harmonising of life cycle ceremonies (especially weddings and funerals) between the Kinh and the minorities.New knowledge is accumulated locally, based on pooled experience. The study concerns how new knowledge on natural resources management is formed through a mixture of the migrants' knowledge from the Red River Delta and the minorities' knowledge of the local area. With a background in the delta area the Kinh brought the old knowledge of advanced wet rice production with them when migrating to the highlands.The facts show that the influence on the subsistence system has not been a one-way flow. That is, not only has the Kinh changed the minorities' agriculture system, but also the minorities' systems have had an impact on the Kinhs' system so that it now is more adapted to the conditions in the highlands.
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