This article examines the shifting biopolitical significance of poverty in Vietnam’s post-reform period, drawing on ethnographic interviews with poor Hanoians. Concomitant with the political economic and sociocultural shifts of market transition, public accounts of poverty’s nature and causes have transformed. The diminished national prevalence of poverty, rapid macroeconomic growth, and the ethos of “socialization” inform accounts that depoliticize deprivation and present it in biopolitical terms, as an inherent characteristic of some social groups. Economic and policy transformations mean that low-income urban residents navigate competing obligations under market socialism: to be as self-reliant as possible while remaining legible as legitimately deserving.

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