Allison TruittDreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City

University of Washington Press, 2013

by Nick Cheesman on June 15, 2015

Allison Truitt

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There's a lot more to money than its exchange value, as Allison Truitt reveals in her smartly written and lively study, Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City (University of Washington Press, 2013) about how people in Vietnam's largest city negotiate relations with one another, the state, the global marketplace and the spirit world through dollars and dong,

On the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, remitted greenbacks cease to be the stuff of the currency trader or foreign state. Here, they take on new and distinctive roles. They mingle with their counterfeits, the one burned at cemeteries and shrines to satisfy ancestral debts, the other sent by relatives living abroad to acknowledge the debt-bond owed by those who have left the country to those who remain behind. They celebrate the transnational yet also beckon to the intimate. And, they challenge the communist party to reorder its narrative of modernity so as to maintain the primacy of its role in political and administrative affairs.

As Truitt herself puts it, Dreaming of Money in Ho Chi Minh City tells a story of "monetary pluralism rather than tightly wound institutional bets, of the sensuous pleasures of cash rather than calculations of derivatives". It also tells a story of power: of the claims to power that states make through the production of territorial currency, and of how those claims are undermined by the ways that people use money for their own purposes.

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