In Vietnam, international remittances from the diaspora are a significant input into the national economy. Yet beyond capital transfer, remittance economies are also key social nodes offering insight into the extension of imaginations, expectations, and desires that accompany them. This article examines the role of gifting remittances in reestablishing, maintaining, and straining kinship networks disrupted by refugee exile, and catalyzing shifting aspirations and mobile horizons. Drawing on fieldwork from Vietnam's southern and central coast regions, this essay interrogates the anthropological question of the mediatory role of gifts in social exchange relations. It argues that the long-distance nature of remittance exchanges in the contemporary global political economy juxtaposes the mobility and exchangeable value of money and its senders against the experiences of local bodies confined within the nation state. This contradiction reveals a liminal space for emergent social imaginaries in which the characteristics of the gifting medium itself come to partially affect and embody the relationships between and identities among givers and receivers. Such imaginaries draw awareness to spatial and ontological margins, borders, and horizons associated with migratory and financial flows and opportunities and are displaced into diverse sociocultural forms reflecting phenomenological degrees of aspiration, realization, and frustration.
“Over There”: Imaginative Displacements in Vietnamese Remittance Gift Economies
Ivan Victor Small is a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of California, Irvine. Field research for this article was conducted between 2007 and 2009 as part of the author's doctoral dissertation in Sociocultural Anthropology at Cornell University. The author acknowledges the Fulbright-Hays DDRA, the Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Cornell Southeast Asia Program, and the Cornell Graduate School of Arts & Sciences for generously providing research support. He also thanks the Anthropology Department of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam, for sponsoring him as a Visiting Research Fellow, and the Bình Định Province People's Committee for facilitating his initial research trip to Quy Nhơn.
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Ivan V. Small; “Over There”: Imaginative Displacements in Vietnamese Remittance Gift Economies. Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1 August 2012; 7 (3): 157–183. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/vs.2012.7.3.157
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