Orchestrating the Nation: Court Orchestras, Nationalism and Agency in Vietnam

Norton, Barley. 2018. Orchestrating the Nation: Court Orchestras, Nationalism and Agency in Vietnam. In: Tina K. Ramnarine, ed. Global Perspectives on Orchestras: Collective Creativity and Social Agency. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 301-323. ISBN 9780199352227 [Book Section]

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This chapter addresses the cultural politics, history and revival of Vietnamese court orchestras, which were first established at the beginning of the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945). Based on fieldwork in the city of Hue, it considers the decolonizing processes that have enabled Vietnamese court orchestras to take their place alongside other East Asian court orchestras as a display of national identity in the global community of nations. The metaphor of ‘orchestrating the nation’ is used to refer to the ways in which Vietnamese orchestras have been utilized for sociopolitical ends in several historical periods.

Court orchestras as heritage have recourse to a generic, precolonial past, yet they are not entirely uncoupled from local roots. Taking as a case-study the revival of the Nam Giao Sacrifice, a ritual for ‘venerating heaven’, the chapter addresses the dynamics of interaction and exchange between staged performances of national heritage and local Buddhist and ancestor worship rituals. In the context of growing concern about the impact of global climate change, it is argued that the spiritual and ecological resonances of the Nam Giao Sacrifice have provided opportunities for the Party-state to reassert its position as the supreme guardian of the nation and its people.

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22 February 2018Published

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25 Sep 2017 11:11

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09 Mar 2021 12:06



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