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Position Pieces

Vol 7 No 2: September issue

Leprosy, impurity, and stigma in Vietnam

  • Le Hoang Ngoc Yen
November 9, 2017
September 30, 2020


This Position Piece examines the nature of Vietnamese folk constructions of leprosy through Mary Douglas’s (1969) and Victor Turner’s (1967) works. Investigating Vietnamese explanations for the origins of leprosy and its channels of transmissions, symptoms, and consequences, I argue that these accounts are rooted in narratives of transition, transgression, the crossing of boundaries, and categorical confusion of various kinds. I argue that these deeply embedded perceptions of leprosy help to explain the existence of persistent stigma against leprosy in Vietnam, despite highly effective drug treatments and extensive state awareness programmes.