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Scholarly Interest Report
Elizabeth F. Vann
Assistant Professor
Assistant Professor in Anthropology
  • B.A. Anthropology (1994) Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
  • M.A. Anthropology (1998) University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • Ph.D. Anthropology (2003) University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Department Affiliations
  • Asian Studies
    Research Areas
     global capitalism, consumerism, consumption, corporate branding and production practices, Vietnam, East/ Southeast Asia, consumer-led production
    Research Statement

    My research is concerned primarily with the complex and shifting relationships between consumption, production, goods, and value in the global market economy.  Together, these issues became the organizing frame for my doctoral research, an ethnographic study in 1999 and 2000 of consumption practices among middle-class consumers in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and the popular market theories that guide them.  Through this research, I sought to understand why, in Vietnam’s current period of market reform, middle-class consumers were privileging information about sites of product manufacture over brand names and logos.  Pro-market policies have helped to refill HCMC’s market stalls, and have brought residents face-to-face with many of the same goods that can be found in cities around the world.  As elsewhere, consumers in HCMC are encouraged to rely on brand names and logos, but many find them to be ineffective, and even misleading market guides.  Instead, and through local networks of persons, things, and knowledge, shoppers piece together stories and explanations of commodities and their value.  These consumer-driven market accounts serve as practical guides for informed buying and as popular commentary on market capitalism.  My published and forthcoming work considers the broad and important questions that consumption practices in HCMC raise about the relationship between products and brands, about corporate ownership, oversight, and labor, about product legitimacy and brand authenticity, about the relative materiality of consumerism, and about the flexibility of capitalism.

    My current research project examines ethnographically the ways in which people who have traditionally been classified as “consumers” are increasingly treated and encouraged to act as “producers.”  This project is concerned, primarily, with what has been termed “corporate-led co-production.”  In contrast to other forms of peer production and collaboration, which are often understood as community-generated and even anti-corporate activities, corporate-led consumer production is, as it suggests, initiated largely by and through corporations, and seeks to draw consumers directly into the production of market value. This project investigates how the involvement of consumers in the production of corporate and market value not only blurs lines between production and consumption, but may also be contributing to the formation of a new class of market professionals and experts.  Further, it aims to elucidate how the market-oriented work of consumers may be transforming the objects and loci of market value in ways that challenge existing definitions of commoditization.



    Teaching Areas
     cultural anthropology, capitalism and culture, consumption and consumerism, modern Asia, material culture
    Selected Publications

    Vann, Elizabeth F. Trouble with Brands: Consumption and Popular Economics in Vietnam. (under review, Duke University Press)

     Book chapters

    Vann, Elizabeth F. “Culture.” In Handbook of Sociocultural Anthropology, James Carrier and Deborah Gewertz, eds. Berg Press. (forthcoming)

     Năm xe máy Trung Quốc [The Year of Chinese Motorbikes]. In Hiện đại và động thái của truyền thống ở Việt Nam: Những cách tiếp cận nhân học [Modernities and Dynamics of Traditions in Vietnam: Anthropological Approaches], Volume 1. National University of Ho Chi Minh City Press.
     Book reviews
     Book Review of Possessed by the Spirits: Mediumship in Contemporary Vietnamese Communities Karen Fjelstad and Nguyen Thi Hien, eds. Cornell University Press 2006 American Anthropologist 109(3):557-558.
     Invited Papers

    "The Year of Chinese Motorbikes." Modernities and Dynamics of Tradition in Vietnam: Anthropological Approaches, Binh Chau Resort, Vietnam. (December)


    panelist/ paper presenter.  "‘Raising Up’ Motorbikes in Vietnam." Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, San Francisco. (November 23, 2008)

    Editorial Positions
     Other, National Science Foundation. (2009 - 2009)

     Other, Cultural Anthropology. (2009 - 2009)

     Other, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. (2009 - 2009)

     Other, American Anthropologist. (2008 - 2008)

     Other, Cultural Anthropology. (2008 - 2008)

     Other, International Sociology. (2008 - 2008)

    Supervised Theses & Dissertations
     Elise McCarthy, PhD Corporate Sustainability in Ireland. (2008) (Thesis Committee Member)

     Daniel White, PhD Japan's Soft Power. (2008) (Thesis Committee Member)

     Tsholofelo Dichaba, MA From Monuments to Cultural Lanscapes: Cultural Heritage Sites in Botswana. (2009) (Thesis Committee Member)