The Social Life of Achievement and Competitiveness in Vietnam and Indonesia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Social Anthropology

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.
 
Description In Kepri and Hanoi, the cultivation of achievement-oriented and competitive populations is a claim to equal membership of both the nation and a globalised knowledge economy (Bayly 2013a; Long 2013a, 2013b). Respondents from all categories saw their achievements not just as individual attainments but as 'for the nation' and its standing on the world stage. Rather than viewing the growing global emphasis on achievement as a monolithic subjectification created and imposed by neoliberalism (cf. Ong 2006; Urciuoli 2008), our findings indicate that achievement thinking and policy should be viewed as strategic responses to locally-situated imaginaries of a changing political economy. Many of Bayly's respondents professed a direct stake in the much-discussed goal of making the distinctive qualities of Vietnameseness a source of high-yield attainments in the global marketplace. One manifestation of this has been the claim that specialists in the paranormal arts represent a scientifically measurable and uniquely Vietnamese national asset (Bayly 2013 a; c). This pattern was absent in Kepri, where paranormal practitioners took pride in their capacities but refused to categorise them as 'achievements'.



The project has led us to develop a new theoretical framework for studying achievement not just as a goal, but also as a socially embedded event reframing subjectivity and social relations (Long and Moore 2013). This illuminates why the experience of achieving is more diverse than typically assumed. Students at Hanoi's 'gifted-student' schools have become objects of moral concern as they negotiate still-active schemas exalting a socialist citizen's obligations to the collective, alongside calls for market-era achievers to chart an individual but never 'opportunist' path in the attainment of globally-defined 'human resource' capacities such as 'confidence' and 'creativity'. Consequently, high performers in Hanoi's big-name schools felt perpetually on show: hailed as exemplars for the

nation, yet continually scrutinized for signs of self-advantaging 'achievement disease' (Bayly 2013a, 2013b).



In Kepri, achievement-related debates were more technocratic. The use of contests (following McClelland's (1961) achievement psychology) is now complemented with activities allowing greater numbers of people to achieve: e.g. mass record-breaking (Long 2013b) or 'hypno-motivation', reflecting a key premise of current educational psychology: that anyone can grow to be a high-quality human resource (Dweck 2006, 2013). Yet since Kepri people view the officials implementing these programmes as low-quality 'human resources' themselves, achievement becomes a source of self-doubt and anxiety as much as pleasure or confidence. Reflexivity regarding political circumstances, we argue, is a crucial dimension of achievement psychology (Long 2013b).



Recognition was a central concern for our informants, notably export labourers - who grappled with being valuable sources of revenue for their families but also disparaged as workers of low human resource quality. Respondents in both fieldsites used their remittances to fund degree-course study and hence a 'high-achiever's life for younger kin. Long's respondents found migration recalibrated their views of other countries' human resource quality such that they could now recognise themsleves as 'competitive'. This casts new light on dominant theories of 'recognition', which typically presume national rather than transnational frames (e.g. Honneth 1995; McNay 2008; Siegel 1997).
Exploitation Route Our scientific impacts include the development of a model of achievement psychology and motivation that is more attentive to political context than those currently dominant in social and developmental psychology (see Long 2013b), the development of a new framework for the anthropological study of achievement (see Long and Moore 2013), and the most detailed accounts yet published of the different nuances and inflections that can be associated with the language of 'achievement' in both Vietnam (Bayly 2013c) and Indonesia (Long 2013a).



In July 2013, Long organised a workshop with social psychologists, school administrators and teachers, held at the Greenwich Free School in Woolwich. This explored how our work with high-achieving school pupils might illuminate educational practice in the UK and elsewhere, complementing the models of educational psychology that are currently dominant in programmes such as TeachFirst (selected papers are available publicly at http://sociallifeofachievement.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/symposium-motivational-psychology-in-educational-settings/)



Long has also given several speeches to student and civilian audiences in Kepri itself, raising awareness of how state-authored achievement discourse was shaping the lives of citizens. The research project and its early findings were debated in the Kepri press - see e.g. 'Arungi hidup dengan prinsip seperti pilot', Batam Pos, 21st January 2012, or 'Pelajar di Kepri butuh motivasi', Haluan Kepri, 5th January 2013.



Bayly's policy-related impacts in Vietnam arise from her role as international advisor to the Centre for Research and Preservation of Vietnam's Doctoral Heritage (CPD), a key public foundation seeking to contribute to public understanding and awareness of the contributions of the many Vietnamese men and women with modern high-level 'doctoral' knowledge and training who contributed to the nation's modern development. Her work with them has entailed a number of occasions for exchange and dialogue relating to their

attempts to generate an updated understanding of role models and emulation standards for present-day citizen-achievers.



Bayly has also been a capacity-building consultant for the Centre for Research & Promotion of the Cultural Heritage of Vietnam (CCH), an NGO created by key heritage professionals in Hanoi. She has found members very responsive to the idea of building nuanced notions of achievement into the language employed to motivate their young staff especially to seek and benefit from various kinds of international training. This shows how the insights we are developing can have practical benefit in honing motivational discourses that might avoid some of the unfortunate unintended consequences attendant on unreflective uses of achievement vocabulary.
N/A - this was a small grant only, designed to test the horizons of ideas and generate new hypotheses that may or may not be 'exploitable' in future.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description Our scientific impacts include the development of a model of achievement psychology and motivation that is more attentive to political context than those currently dominant in social and developmental psychology (see Long 2013b), the development of a new framework for the anthropological study of achievement (see Long and Moore 2013), and the most detailed accounts yet published of the different nuances and inflections that can be associated with the language of 'achievement' in both Vietnam (Bayly 2013c) and Indonesia (Long 2013a). In July 2013, Long organised a workshop with social psychologists, school administrators and teachers, held at the Greenwich Free School in Woolwich. This explored how our work with high-achieving school pupils might illuminate educational practice in the UK and elsewhere, complementing the models of educational psychology that are currently dominant in programmes such as TeachFirst (selected papers are available publicly at http://sociallifeofachievement.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/symposium-motivational-psychology-in-educational-settings/). Teachers who attended the symposium found the project's findings on the sometimes unexpected consequences that 'positive psychology' discourses engendered in Indonesia of particular value in identifying and safeguarading against similar outcomes in their own pedagogical practice. On 4th July 2014 and 2nd July 2015, he shared similar findings with 120 British school pupils and teachers in a public outreach lecture on 'The Madness of Success' at London Anthropology Day, encouraging participants to relate the material to their own experiences of learning. A lively group discussion ensued, suggesting many participants' conceptions had been changed by attending the event. Long has also given several speeches to student and public audiences in the Riau Archipelago itself, helping to raise their awareness of how state-authored achievement discourse was shaping the lives of citizens. The research project and its early findings were debated in the Kepri press - see e.g. 'Arungi hidup dengan prinsip seperti pilot', Batam Pos, 21st January 2012, or 'Pelajar di Kepri butuh motivasi', Haluan Kepri, 5th January 2013. Senior members of the provincial administration, including such key figures as the Regent of Kabupaten Bintan and the Provincial Monitor for government high schools have taken a personal interest in the project's findings. In Vietnam, Bayly's research findings have made a critical contribution to the work of the Centre for Research and Preservation of Vietnam's Doctoral Heritage (CPD), a key public foundation seeking to contribute to public understanding and awareness of the contributions of the many Vietnamese men and women with modern high-level 'doctoral' knowledge and training who contributed to the nation's modern development. Her work with them has entailed a number of occasions for exchange and dialogue relating to their attempts to generate an updated understanding of role models and emulation standards for present-day citizen-achievers. Bayly has also been a consultant for the Centre for Research & Promotion of the Cultural Heritage of Vietnam (CCH), an NGO created by key heritage professionals in Hanoi. Her role with CCH is to foster project development related to its pioneering work of training and capacity-building for staff at national museums and public heritage sites, and the creation of heritage-based museum education programmes. During the grant period she has been consultant for CCH educational projects at the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi, the Vietnam Women's Museum, the National Museum of Vietnam History, the former Presidential Palace complex in Ho Chi Minh City, the National Fine Arts Museum, and the National Army Museum in Hanoi, where she has organised and spoken at symposia on cross-cultural perspectives on the fostering of creativity through museum education programmes and initiatives. The Vietnamese museums Bayly advises have reported adopting significantly revised strategies in response to her presentations on the project's findings. Public heritage institutions in Vietnam are now charged with making museum-based educational initiatives a key resource in the pursuit of a new critical national goal, that of enhancing young people's 'creativity'. Bayly's presentations on the tensions between older high-socialist and newer marketisation-era understandings of personal and collective attainment have enhanced heritage professionals' awareness of the potential strengths and weaknesses of the programme options available to them. The Director of Vietnam's Centre for the Research and Promotion of Vietnamese Cultural Heritage (CCH) has described Bayly's presentations as '[having] greatly aided us in our highly regarded museum capacity-building programmes."
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Address to a Vietnamese public outreach congress on the Mother Goddess spiritual tradition held in Nam Dinh, Vietnam, in September 2012. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bayly addressed an international public outreach congress held near Vietnam's major Mother Goddess shrine site (Phu Dong): the aim of this event was to foster public understanding of Vietnam's Mother Goddess tradition and its links to contemporary debates about achievement, merit and creativity. The audience numbered at least 200 officials, journalists, academics and ritual practitioners. Bayly's contribution was discussed throughout the proceedings.



Reports in the national press and broadcast media; participants reported that their views of how achievement and success related to the qualifications and effectiveness of ritual practitioners had been expanded by Bayly's discussion of the project's findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Public Lecture: Images and the Moral Citizen in Late-socialist Vietnam 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 45 audience members attended the public lecture, which described the relationship between achievement, morality, and visual culture. The talk sparked questions and lively discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Research briefing delivered to Vietnam's National Army Museum in Hanoi in August 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 30 heritage professionals associated with the administration of Vietnam's National Army Museum attended a presentation by Bayly at their Museum's main site in Hanoi, the national capital, on cross-cultural perspectives on creativity in museum-based educational programmes. Extensive discussion ensued on implications for the museum's educational development plans of Bayly's account of the tensions between older high-socialist and newer marketisation-era understandings of personal and collective attainment.

Participants reported that Bayly's presentation had enhanced heritage professionals' awareness of the potential strengths and weaknesses of the programme options available to them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Royal Asiatic Society Anniversary AGM public lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Royal Asiatic Society Anniversary AGM public lecture
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://royalasiaticsociety.org/the-breadth-and-depth-of-asian-studies/
 
Description Talks at London Anthropology Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Dr Long gave a talk to c. 120 school pupils in both 2014 and 2015. It was entitled 'The Madness of Success', and sparked a lively discussion about the relationship between achievement and mental health.

Students reported that they had developed a new perspective on the topic and on their own relationship to achievement and educational attainment. It had also increased their awareness of anthropology.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015