Fish for Transparency: Challenges of environmental governance from the perspective of food-driven protests

Thai Nguyen Van Quoc, Elen-Maarja Trell, Ronald Holzhacker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


In the aftermath of a mass fish death along the coastal area of Central Vietnam in April 2016, disdain and frustration of the public soon escalated into widespread protests. These protests arose in response to evasion and oppressive tactics from the government. Using discourse analysis, this chapter identifies the different narratives between the government and the activists. This mismatch reveals challenges to governance in Vietnam in the form of a lack of participatory platform. The chapter explores how the theme of fish contributed to the narrative of protestors in rural and urban areas in Vietnam and where they differ. Our analysis indicates that food, as a socio-political lens, has seemingly unified the voices of rural and urban protestors and might have potential to consolidate the existing discourses on civil society. The socio-political imagery of masses of dead fish depicted a life-threatening reality that transcended mere everyday discomfort or technical failures. The fish death, as reconstructed through various media sources, highlighted the role of food as a medium for transboundary socio-political activism. In this sense, food and the related discourse has a bounding effect on some narratives but also functions as a frame to illustrate the challenged relationship between the government and its people.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChallenges of Governance
Subtitle of host publicationDevelopment and Regional Integration in Southeast Asia and ASEAN
EditorsRonald L. Holzhacker, Wendy Guan Zhen Tan
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-59054-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-59053-6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameDevelopment and Governance


  • discourse analysis
  • food security
  • fish death
  • narrative

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