Social exchange and the participation of voluntary associations in lifecycle events
In Vietnam, since the early twentieth century, a vibrant social life in village with a lot of activities conducted by various voluntary associations has been noticed. This continues to be an important feature in the social life in Vietnamese rural society in recent years when Luong (2010) notices that individuals seek to expand their social networks via joining local voluntary associations. This practice was also noticed in our study from 2007 to 2009 in Giao Tan commune (Nam Dinh province, the
... Red river delta). This paper studies how Vietnamese rural inhabitants practise social exchanges in the particular form of gift giving and receiving during lifecycle events. It also examine how voluntary associations participate in these events and the meaning they bring to their members as well as the host families. Data of this paper is based on 52 in-depth interviews with representatives of local authority and voluntary associations, as well as data from 187 wedding and funeral journals taken note by local inhabitants in Giao Tan commune. Our study finds that rural people usually participate in the gift exchange network through lifecycle events of their villagers. Involving in this network becomes an obligation, a reciprocal exchange among them. People do one another a favor and expect some future return. Besides the meaning of paying an in-turn debt, joining in the lifecycle events among villagers also help strengthen social cohesion. Rural people prefer going to the events by delegations to by individuals, as it brings more honor to the host families. It means that the family members have larger networks other than their primary ones of family and kinship. The presence of voluntary associations in these events is an example of such secondary networks, where they create, within the village or commune, social relations and social exchanges among their members and/or with broader villagers.