Overseas Vietnamese are estimated to remit 15 billion dollars annually to family that remains in Vietnam. Ivan V. Small
moves beyond the numbers to examine how remittances affect sociality and human relations in his book Currencies of Imagination: Channeling Money and Chasing Mobility in Vietnam
(Cornell University Press, 2018). Although remittances flow back to Vietnam with relative ease, bodies have more difficulty migrating and tend to remain in place. This condition reorients the gaze towards overseas horizons and opens up imaginative possibilities for labor, expectations about their own country, and desires for physical mobility. Small tracks remittances in Saigon, small coastal towns, and in Southern California, thus producing a transnational ethnography of monetary flows and relations. He notes remittances’ shifting forms from goods, to money, and charitable contributions. Although remittances are often thought of only through economic terms, Small argues that they contribute to ongoing social transformations at individual and social levels.
Ivan V. Small is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Central Connecticut State University.
Reighan Gillam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on race, blackness, and visual representation in Brazil. She is on Twitter @ReighanGillam.