Daily Deference Rituals and Social Hierarchy in Vietnam

  •  Kien Nguyen    


Since Doi Moi (i.e. the Renovation) in 1986, Vietnam has substantially transformed its society from one of the poorest countries into a middle-income country. The socio-economic reform have led academics to the focus on studying macro problems such as economic reform, weak government, civil society or social inequality. In the mean time, the investigation of micro aspects presented in everyday life has been often neglected. The presentation of everyday life, however, is essential to understand social structure in general. This paper employs the concept of “deference rituals” developed by Erving Goffman to investigate the ways Vietnamese people address others, give them exclamations, and perform salutation rituals in their day-to-day life. By doing so, the paper aims to answer the question that why it is functional for society that those deference rituals are carried out; and what their performance does accomplish for maintenance of social interaction order. The paper finds out that although these small rituals are usually considered as mundane forms, their displays serve to help Vietnamese participants show their respect to and readiness to comply with the wishes of the seniors, ensuring the stability of a hierarchical order.

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