This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to explore the cultural politics that have shaped the quan họ soundscape and the people who sing and listen to quan họ. It weaves together an examination of the construction and evolution of Vietnamese discourses on folk music, cultural nationalism, and cultural heritage since the August Revolution of 1945 with an ethnographic account of the changing social practice of quan họ folk song as it has moved from the village onto the stage. Through the lens of quan họ folk song and performance, it explores how discourses on culture have been an important source of political and cultural capital with which the Vietnamese government, intellectuals, and ordinary people represent Vietnam locally, nationally, and, increasingly, on the global stage. A theme that runs throughout this book is the connection between the sensory experiences (aural and visual) that occur within the quan họ soundscape and the emotional experience of performing and listening to the music.
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