Family Values and Kinship Relations in Market Stalls
In Vietnam during the 1990s, public discourse resounded with debates about the status and future of the Vietnamese family as an economic and cultural unit. For Bến Thành traders, a moralizing and disciplining rhetoric that valorized particular family forms both constrained and opened up spaces for creative reappropriation. Traders’ limited resources (both real and perceived) frequently meant that they relied on kin for labor and capital. They argued that these formations were not natural outcomes of some essentialized core of Vietnamese-ness, but pragmatic responses to the economic and political circumstances of socialism and market socialism. At the same time, in their interactions with customers, suppliers, creditors, and officials, traders strove to perform particular versions of traditional familism that suggested both the moral purchase of these values and a desire to be recognized as virtuous.
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