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Essential TradeVietnamese Women in a Changing Marketplace$
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Ann Marie Leshkowich

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839901

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839901.001.0001

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Producing Down and Consuming Up

Producing Down and Consuming Up

Middle Classmaking under (Market) Socialism

(p.174) 7 Producing Down and Consuming Up
Essential Trade

Ann Marie Leshkowich

University of Hawai'i Press

Bến Thành’s successful cloth and clothing traders occupied an ambiguous position with respect to Ho Chi Minh City’s newly prosperous middle classes: their incomes fueled conspicuous consumption, but their marketplace demeanors marked them as “just female petty traders.” This was partly a legacy of postwar socialist class-ification that sought to eliminate “bourgeois” market traders, yet interpreted femininity as a sign of lower class status than material relations alone might have suggested. Under market socialism, highly charged moral debates about class, production, and consumption have shaped a political economy of appearances in which traders class up through spectacular consumption, but class down by hiding the income garnered from production. The fact that Bến Thành traders have tended to experience class as indexed to gender suggests how even a status as obviously social, economic, and political as class can nevertheless become internalized as natural and self-evident.

Keywords:   classmaking, class-ification, socialism, middle class, gender, political economy of appearances

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