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Officially, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has a total of 54 ethnic groups, including the majority Kinh and 53 ethnic minority groups. In this book, Ito Masako examines the history of the ethnic group determination process, highlighting some of the challenges the official policies pose to both the state and the affected peoples.
Vietnam has proudly embraced its multiethnic identity, seeking the equality of all ethnic groups in the interests of national unity. Yet, among other things, it appears that the total number of ethnic categories was rather arbitrarily determined initially, and then fiercely defended by influential politicians and academics. Furthermore, Ito’s extensive field surveys reveal that ethnic policies are frequently manipulated at the regional and local levels in pursuit of economic interests, and not infrequently, to the detriment of those they were intended to benefit.