Rachel Tough (University of East Anglia / SOAS), “Reality Revealed Anew: Ho Chi Minh City during Coronavirus ‘Season’ ” (Council on Southeast Asia Studies)

Event time: 
Wednesday, November 29, 2023 - 4:00pm
Luce Hall 101 (34 Hillhouse Avenue) See map
Event description: 
Rachel Tough, Doctoral Researcher, School of Global Development, University of East Anglia and Teaching Fellow, SOAS University of London.
In 2021, one of the world’s most restrictive COVID-19 containment regimes was imposed in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, bringing widespread social disruption. Instances of infectious disease transmission can serve to reveal reality anew. Indeed, among city dwellers the extraordinary coronavirus phenomenon prompted an upsurge in evaluative talk around a range of social, cultural, economic and political topics, bringing frustrations, fears, aspirations and beliefs to the surface, making them available for analysis. With common perspectives shifting rapidly in the contemporary city and with the Fall of Saigon’s 50th anniversary approaching, the opportunity to reassess ‘reality’ in Ho Chi Minh City in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly timely. 
During fieldwork conducted from 2021 to 2023 primarily in an inner-city alleyway community hit hard by the virus, I joined in the evaluative conversations. In this presentation, I will share everyday, human stories from pandemic ‘season’ (mùa dịch), offer methodological reflections on doing ethnographic fieldwork during a pandemic and suggest theoretical tools that may help to make sense of the empirical data. The imperative to archive the ephemeral pandemic period and its materiality led to a participatory online archiving initiative Chuyện Thời Dịch (Stories from the Time of Pandemic). This collaborative grant-funded project runs until 2025 and will also be introduced in the presentation. 
Rachel Tough is a final year Doctoral Researcher in the School of Global Development at the University of East Anglia and a Teaching Fellow at SOAS, University of London. Her PhD thesis will produce an ethnography of COVID-19 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, drawing on 18 months of fieldwork conducted throughout the pandemic. She holds a BA in East Asian Studies from the University of Sheffield and an MA in International Development from the University of Manchester. Before starting her PhD she worked at City Hall, London leading a team of public policy researchers. Alongside her doctoral studies and in collaboration with Vietnamese colleagues, she is leading research projects funded by the British Museum and the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) documenting endangered heritage in Ho Chi Minh City. She first lived in Vietnam in 2003. Find her on LinkedIn and Researchgate.
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
4 PM
Room 101 Hillhouse