Civil Society Collective Action in a Leninist State: The Case of LGBT Movement in Vietnam

Vietnam has witnessed increasingly vibrant civil society collective actions around different issues of concern such as environmental protection, public space, HIV/AID, people with disability, gender identity and sexual diversity over the last decade. Among emerging civil society actors, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) actors have been able to create larger, more coordinated, and more sustained collective action with more observable policy influence and grassroots practical impact than other groups. The puzzle is why LGBT movement could happen and gain prominence within such a short period of time given the seemingly “closed” political opportunity structure in Vietnam’s Leninist state, which scholars previously have viewed as an explanation for the scarcity of social movements in contemporary Vietnam. To address this puzzle, this research asks: Why and how did the LGBT movement emerge and achieve such strong influence in Vietnam between 2008 and 2018? In my thesis, I propose to focus on the case of LGBT actors in Vietnam and examine which structures, institutions and issues in this Leninist single party state open up different types of political opportunities for civil society actors, and which movement strategies are most effective in achieving policy influence and practical impacts. Through qualitative comparative research, I aim to explain the determinants of the emergence of LGBT movement, and why and how the sexual diversity and gender identity issues became the subject of the state’s policy agenda. I hope to provide one of the first academic studies of civic activism around sexual identity in contemporary Vietnam and thereby contribute to better understanding of social movements in non-democratic settings.

About the Speaker
Huyen Truong joined the Department of Political and Social Change in 2017. She is interested in studying civil society collective action in Vietnam with focus on the case study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) activism. She completed a Master degree in Public Policy at Harvard University. Huyen Truong has formerly worked for Oxfam Great Britain and UNDP in Vietnam.

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