Staying Afloat: Vietnamese Water Puppetry as Intangible Cultural Heritage

Sam Pack


This article is based on data gathered for a research project titled “Digital Repatriation in Vietnam: Towards an (Alter)Native Media Tradition” that was funded by a 2010 ASIANetwork Freeman Student Faculty Award.  The research team consisted of Sam Pack, the faculty advisor, and five undergraduate students from Kenyon College (Michael Eblin, Eliza Leavitt, Jean Mougin, Carrie Walther, and Said Zagha) as well as a group of Vietnamese translators (Ly Huong Nguyen, Mai Thu Doang, Le Quyen, and Truong Thanh Nhon).  The information for this project was collected through numerous discussions, interviews, focus groups, and observation sessions, primarily taking place in Bao Ha village in northern Vietnam, in addition to the nearby village of Nhan Muc, Hai Phong City, and in the capital city of Hanoi.  Informants consisted of individuals from wide ranges of age, backgrounds, occupations, and levels of involvement with tourism and water puppetry.  Government officials from different ministries and offices, performers and directors from multiple water puppetry troupes, academic researchers from various Vietnamese universities and institutions, and representatives from Vietnamese tourist agencies likewise contributed their expertise, cooperation, and friendship.


water puppetry, tourism, Vietnam

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