Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City

Allison J. Truitt

  • Published: 2013
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 224 pp., 20 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: Not Available in Southeast Asia
  • Series: Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies
  • Contents

The expanding use of money in contemporary Vietnam has been propelled by the rise of new markets, digital telecommunications, and an ideological emphasis on money's autonomy from the state. People in Vietnam use the metaphor of "open doors" to describe their everyday experiences of market liberalization and to designate the end of Vietnam's postwar social isolation and return to a consumer- oriented environment. Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City examines how money is redefining social identities, moral economies, and economic citizenship in Vietnam. It shows how people use money as a standard of value to measure social and moral worth, how money is used to create new hierarchies of privilege and to limit freedom, and how both domestic and global monetary politics affect the cultural politics of identity in Vietnam.

Drawing on interviews with shopkeepers, bankers, vendors, and foreign investors, Allison Truitt explores the function of money in everyday life. From counterfeit currencies to streetside lotteries, from gold shops to crowded temples, she relates money's restructuring to performances of identity. By locating money in domains often relegated to the margins of the economy-households, religion, and gender- she demonstrates how money is shaping ordinary people's sense of belonging and citizenship in Vietnam.
Allison J. Truitt is assistant professor of anthropology at Tulane University.
A Note on Place Names

1. The Making of Vietnamese Money
2. Renovating Households
3. Dollars Are for Keeping
4. Summoning Spirits
5. The Qualities of Money
6. Dodging, or Street-Level Strategies for Personal Gain


"This ethnographic account moves from the accounts of shopkeepers to locals managing their money to speculators in the growing market of real estate. In that regard, it demonstrates the flexible line between the legal and illegal, the economy and other value systems, and pre- and postsocialist life in Vietnam's largest city. Recommended."
-Choice, December 2013

"[F]ascinating....Truitt's book has laid a strong foundation for future research in this area. Scholars will find the book to be a valuable resource, as well as an excellent text for undergraduate courses. So, too, will general readers, particularly those interested in the complex lives of money is other cultural contexts."
-Ken MacLean, Southeast Asian Studies

"[A] concise, thought-provoking ethnography.... Truitt makes a welcome contribution to both economic anthropology and Asian studies.... Truitt vividly illuminates the diverse imaginaries surrounding money's incarnations in Ho Chi Minh City.... Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City is reminiscent of classic monographs in economic anthropology.... The book will be crucial reading for Vietnam specialists, economic anthropologists, and other social scientists interested in the cultural dimensions of political economy. With its focus on money, personhood, social relations, and citizenship, it would be an excellent selection for courses in economic anthropology or contemporary Asia."
-Ann Marie Leshkowich, Journal of Asian Studies