Machinery of Male Violence

Embodied Properties and Chronic Crisis amongst Partners in Vietnam


  • Helle Rydstrom Department of Gender Studies, Lund University



Intimate Partner Violence, Gender, Masculinity, Body, Vietnam


This article takes the notion of crisis as a helpful analytical entry point to unfold the tem- poralities and modalities of the machinery of violence as manifested in men’s abuse of their female partners in Vietnam. Based on ethnographic research I conducted over the years, the article argues that some types of crises might be episodic, and thus a bracketing of daily life, while others, such as intimate partner violence, might settle as a crisis of chronicity; as a condition of prolonged difficulties and pain that surreptitiously becomes a new ‘normal’. The machinery of violence, the article shows, refers to processes of symbolic and material transformations of a targeted woman, shaped in accordance with a perpetra- tor’s essentialist imaginations about her embodied properties (e.g., gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity, and bodyableness). Such violence is invigorated by a patrilineal organization of society and a systemic permissiveness to male-to-female abuse. A battered woman is con- fined to an interregnum; a space in which the laws of protection do not apply and male violence is perpetrated with impunity. Yet, men’s violence against their female partners also is combatted and resisted in Vietnamese society.

Author Biography

Helle Rydstrom, Department of Gender Studies, Lund University

Helle Rydstrom is a professor at the Department of Gender Studies, Lund University, Sweden, specialized in the anthropology of gender in Asia. Her research examines the ways in which gender informs violence, (in)security, and precariousness in social life and in sites of conflict and war, on the one hand, and how gendered power relations and hierarchies frame socialization, sexuality, and education, on the other. She recently edited a volume (with Catarina Kinnvall) Climate Hazards, Disasters, and Gender Ramifications (Routledge, 2019).


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How to Cite

Rydstrom, H. (2019). Machinery of Male Violence: Embodied Properties and Chronic Crisis amongst Partners in Vietnam. Advances in Southeast Asian Studies, 12(2), 167–185.



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