Thuy Tran

Project title: International organizations and the global mobility of cultural policy

Aims of the project:

  • To understand the global mobility of cultural policies on cultural and creative industries and its key actors including international organizations such as UNESCO.
  • To explore the implications for policy mobility in time of physical immobility produced by the pandemic through case studies of UNESCO-funded projects in Vietnam and Rwanda.

Project description:
The project examines key programs executed under the framework of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, particularly the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD). Focusing on a case study of two IFCD projects in Vietnam and Rwanda, both seek to strengthen Intellectual Property regulations for the development of cultural and creative industries, the research traces the networks of key actors involved and explores how relevant concepts such as creativity, cultural diversity, or copyright are interpreted in these contexts. Throughout this process, it seeks to understand UNESCO’s influence on the global mobility of cultural and creative industries as a policy idea. Considering that the IFCD projects have been implemented during the pandemic, the research also asks what policy mobility might look like in times of physical immobility.

What did you do before you started your PhD?
I worked for the UNESCO field office in Hanoi from 2012 to 2018, in the culture sector. Throughout the first half of that period, I supported the implementation of a variety of projects on World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage, Museums, Crafts, and Cultural and Creative Industries. In the second half, I coordinated project activities, including some research components, mainly on Cultural and Creative Industries, which took place under the framework of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. After that, I worked as an independent researcher for different organizations and research institutions, before taking this Ph.D. journey in March 2020.

What are the challenges of your research role?
The challenges posed for my research role include expected and unexpected ones. The former results from the fact that I began this Ph.D. as a matured student with family commitments. My son turned 6 one week before my flight to Melbourne. As guided by the University, I went to Australia by myself first, thinking that my family would come in the next two months.

This travel arrangement, however, became quite complicated due to the pandemic, which created a whole lot of unexpected challenges. The Australian borders closed three weeks after my arrival and remains closed today. Most of my time in Melbourne was spent in lockdown. As my son could not join me, I managed to go back to Vietnam by the end of 2020 after having my coursework completed. My confirmation was done from Hanoi in February 2021. About three months later, Hanoi went into its longest lockdown. My son started his first grade in September 2021, totally online. My daily work now involves not only this Ph.D. research but also supporting my first-grade student to write his first words. It sometimes feels like two different Ph.D. projects going on at the same time.

Furthermore, the pandemic has caused travel ban in many countries. I could not travel to Rwanda for fieldwork as planned and this has brought about quite a lot of changes in my research design and methods.

What is the best part of your research role?
I always love reading and writing, so this research role really suits me. Due to the challenges mentioned above, at some points, I have had hard times concentrating on my work. However, for the most part, I have truly enjoyed doing the research. One of the reasons that led me to go into this journey was the questions I had during the time working for UNESCO in Hanoi. Doing a Ph.D. is hard work, but it has come quite naturally from my curiosity to understand, and I am so grateful to find some of the readings highly illuminating. The curiosity attached to the questions raised in the past has gradually been more and more satisfied.

Where do you wish to go after your PhD? Do you want to enter industry or continue doing more research?Another reason for me to do this Ph.D. is to embark on an academic career. I hope to continue doing more research.