Mass protests against authoritarian regimes typically take even country experts by surprise. With hindsight, a gradual politicisation of civil society can be discerned, but the mechanisms underlying it remain unclear. Tam Nguyen’s research project will examine the interaction of top-down and bottom-up processes at the micro-level of civic participation to explain how Vietnamese civil society becomes politicising. Vietnam is an interesting case study because the country has seen decades of stable single party rule, foreign aid, and a rapidly growing economy; yet surprisingly massive bursts of protest and online activism have taken place in recent years and are met with varying degrees of state repression.

Prior to CISRUL, Tam obtained her Bachelor degree in Psychology (National University of Singapore) and two Master’s degrees in Community Psychology and Social Change (Penn State, Fulbright scholarship) and International Development (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Excellence scholarship). In addition, Tam was involved in activism in Vietnam in the period of 2011-2016, working with diplomatic missions and Swedish human rights organisation Civil Rights Defenders to advocate for freedom of association and peaceful assembly. In 2014 she also published a memoir called “Heart of a Lion” about her experience growing up in the Open Door era of Vietnam, followed by formative years in Singapore, the US, and Europe that motivated her activism for democratic freedom in Vietnam.


Dr. Trevor Stack & Prof. Pamela Abbott


  • Democracy and democratisation
  • Civil society
  • Social movements
  • Foreign aid
  • Authoritarianism
  • Peace processes