The mainstream view on Vietnam’s ethnic policies tends to emphasize the powerlessness of ethnic minorities vis-à-vis the state and supports the proposition that the mainland Southeast Asian countries have basically no difference in their approaches to ethnic minorities regardless of their differences in their political systems and ideologies. Ethnic minorities are invariably viewed as aliens inside to be subjugated and disciplined so as not to pose any threat to the nation-states. As a whole such a view cannot denied with ease, given the political circumstances under which multi-ethnic countries are placed. But it fails to see the potential differences in state approaches to ethnic minorities which may yield different policy outcomes. This article looks in depth and detail at the history of ethnography in Vietnam and dismantles it to show that it was structured by ideological and strategic needs so as to invent Vietnam’s own classification system. The Marxist and nationalist worldview played a significant role in rendering much weight on the survival of ethnicity. The strategic considerations led the ethnology to be responsive to the voices of minority groups. With these variables at play the Vietnamese ethnographers produced the final outcome, which enlists 54 official ethnic groups. As the highly unusual demographic changes of ethnic groups demonstrate, however, the classification contains a serious problem stemming from the very structure. Since ethnic consciousness may have an overriding effect on granting the status of ethnic groups, many minority groups have changed their identities within a short period of time. Another ramification related to ethnic policies is that minority groups have challenged the existing classification and keep demanding for changes in their status. Since the unification the ideological and strategic factors have gradually lost their effects and the new circumstances bred by reform policies seem to make it necessary to overhaul the Vietnamese ethnology. It remains to be seen if it is ready to be restructured in a way to lay a new ground for state approaches to ethnic minorities in Vietnam.
Ⅱ. The Demography and Classification of Ethnic Minorities
Ⅲ. The Birth of Ethnology in Vietnam
Ⅳ. Ethnic Groups Classified
Ⅴ. The Structure of Ethnology