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Cumbria-led £268,000 international research collaboration with ethnic minority groups in Vietnam secures British Academy funding

A new international collaboration led by the University of Cumbria will explore the impact of outdoor tourism on ethnic minority groups in Vietnam.

The Cumbria-led project is one of 28 projects to receive a grant from the British Academy’s ODA (Official Development Assistance) International Interdisciplinary Research Projects 2024 programme. 

The British Academy, the UK’s national academy for humanities and social sciences, has awarded the two-year research project a total of £214,760. The British Academy programme is funded by the UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s International Science Partnership Fund, enabling research that supports the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

This is the first time that the University of Cumbria has received a grant from the British Academy. 

Leading the Outdoor Tourism and the Changing Cultural Narratives in Vietnamese Ethnic Minority Communities project, the university-led team will use Participatory Action Research by adopting narrative photovoice, a qualitative research method that gathers photographs and narratives from participants that can be translated into actionable knowledge.

Specifically, researchers will work collaboratively with two ethnic minority groups – the Hmong and the Tày - in three regions of northern Vietnam; the Mu Chang Chai region, the Sa Pa district, and the Ba Be National Park.

Members of the Hmong and Tày communities will be invited to use Polaroid cameras to help gather images for research data. 

Dr Jamie McPhie, Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities and Social Science at the University of Cumbria, is the principal investigator of this international project.

A former actor and expedition leader before turning to academia to specialise in outdoor studies and adventure education, Dr McPhie is an expert in the field of environmental post-humanities and mental health and wellbeing in the outdoors.

Dr Jamie McPhie, said: “Other ways of knowing and being are worldviews that add richness and diversity to cultural and environmental perceptions and behaviours but they are increasingly being lost or homogenised to the world’s majority cultures.

“This collaboration will ask what the social and environmental impacts of outdoor tourism on ethnic minority communities in Vietnam are and how can we as a diverse research group best inform each other to co-create more equitable social and environmental cultural relations.

“Our three narrative photovoice projects will focus on the influence of outdoor tourism on changing worldviews, narratives, behaviours, skills, and health, among the two ethnic minority groups - the Hmong that has a population of around 900,000 and the Tày which has a population of 1.7 million. This research will impact tourist companies, NGOs and policy makers to further enable economic and environmental sustainability, self-efficacy and de-colonisation.”

Dr McPhie is joined by UK co-investigators University of Cumbria colleague Dr Lisa Fenton, who is an expert in ethnobotany and ethnobiology and internationally recognised for her professional work in Bushcraft education and wilderness survival skills, and Dr David A G Clarke, a lecturer in Outdoor and Environmental Education at the University of Edinburgh who brings expertise on political ontology and animistic worldviews.

They will be working closely with colleagues in Vietnam including Dr Tran Hoai who is a lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Sciences and Arts at Vietnam National University in Hanoi and a post-doc at VinUniversity who specialises in Vietnamese history and culture.

Dr Myles Liam Lynch is a senior lecturer within the College of Arts and Sciences at VinUniversity in Vietnam and an expert in outdoor and experiential education studies having taught, researched and worked in the industry for over 18 years.

University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell said: “We are extremely pleased to receive this highly prestigious award from the British Academy and are excited to see how this research collaboration progresses as our UK based team works closely with colleagues in Vietnam and members of the Hmong and Tày populations to create greater equity for such communities.

“As a university of, for and from Cumbria, our focus includes delivering real-world applied research with high impact, co-creating and applying new knowledge, with our academics and students supporting our communities to thrive.’’

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