‘My Grandmother Never Told Me That Before!’

Collaborative oral histories with ethnic minority youth and elders in northern Vietnam


  • Sarah Turner McGill University
  • Sarah Delisle McGill University




Oral histories, Positionality, Collaborative research, Fieldwork in Vietnam, Hmong


Hmong ethnic minority populations in Vietnam’s northern borderlands have a long history of oral tradition and story-telling. Yet with an historical absence of literacy and no self-created written archives, the first-hand knowledge and experiences of Hmong elders is seldom communicated beyond their kin. At the request of a Hmong community member we developed a collaborative, intergenerational oral history project that would allow stories of Hmong elders to be shared on the internet. Concurrently, we trained Hmong youth in research methods, helping to improve their English skills and contribute to inter-generational knowledge transfer. Drawing on debates regarding collaborative North-South ethnography, positionality and critical reflexivity, and feminist fieldwork approaches, we contemplate our roles as two Global North researchers interacting with Global South ethnic minority youth and elders, and the degree to which we were able to help support the creation of subaltern counter-narratives to Vietnamese state discourses of upland minority histories.’


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