Reviewing the scholarship on ethnic minorities in Vietnam, this essay identifies problems with the prevailing "carceral" approach that regards ethnic minorities as deprived of agency and as territorially circumscribed, disciplined subjects. New ethnographic and historical research demonstrates, to the contrary, that ethnic minorities have been active in the transformations of their worlds. The new scholarship situates contemporary minority transnational networks in the context of older translocal affiliations, identities, and livelihood strategies. The enduring anthropological preoccupation with official classificatory projects is questioned; instead, attention is given to popular identifications in circulation, and transition, among ethnic minorities and their proximate Others.

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