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the limits of “state functionalism” and the reconstruction of funerary ritual in contemporary northern Vietnam



In this article I examine the history and consequences of the Vietnamese Communist Party's attempt to reform funerary rituals in the post-1954 period. By examining the mixed results of the campaign, I argue that “state functionalism,” a phenomenon defined as the use of ritual by state officials to advance official objectives and ideology, cannot succeed in controlling all meanings and values mobilized in ritual. Official ideology, however, does not remain divorced from the values and ideals participants bring to reformed ritual practices. Instead, it enters into a transformative dialogue with its historical antecedents, producing a set of rituals, and ideas about ritual, different from what the cadres intended and what they replaced. [funerary ritual, Vietnam, ritual change, culture and ideology, socialist ritual]

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