‘Civic’ field: Negotiating the ideals of community, citizenship and community work

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Education in the Asia-Pacific Region, 2019, 48 pp. 185 - 210
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© 2019, Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. This chapter examines returnees’ experience in the ‘civic’ field and focuses on voluntary community work. The chapter first presents a brief overview of the civic culture and functions of civil society organisations in Vietnam. Findings from the survey and interviews reveal returnees’ nuanced conceptions of community and civic actions that arbitrate between overseas-acquired ideals of community and civic ‘self’ and the Vietnamese tradition of communities as enclaves of extended families. Despite some returnees’ critique of the latter as limited in reach and impact, their choices and practices of community work were firmly situated in the Vietnamese habitus of personal networks of families and friends. For these returnees, citizenship and ability to use their overseas-acquired skills to help others were their achieved functionings. The chapter concludes with theoretical abstractions of the findings that reaffirm the workings of normative agency and situated freedom in the ‘professional’ and ‘intellectual’ fields. The notion of power embedded in social networks highlights the inextricable link between individual agency and collective agency in the ‘civic’ field. The chapter identifies some implications for international education broadly, and for Vietnam’s civil society organisations in receiving returning international graduates or migrants.
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