Vietnam’s New Middle Classes

Gender, Career, City

Catherine Earl

  • Published: 2014
  • Pages: 320 pp.
  • Series: Gendering Asia
  • Series number: 9
Available from NIAS Press worldwide
ISBN Hardback: 978-87-7694-145-1, £60.00
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7694-146-8, £22.50

Explores the social consequences of macro-economic reform introduced in Vietnam more than a quarter of a century ago through a focus on young women graduates who hope to find success in Ho Chi Minh City’s growing graduate labour market. More than a study of Vietnam’s new middle class, the book also highlights the important social role of remittances sent back to rural kinfolk and concludes with a wide-ranging look at the emergence of middle classes in Pacific Asia.

 

This volume explores the social consequences of macro-economic reform introduced in Vietnam more than a quarter of a century ago through a focus on young women graduates who hope to find success in Ho Chi Minh City’s growing graduate labour market. They are part of Vietnam’s new middle class, an educated and affluent segment of society growing with the rapid urbanization of Vietnam’s major cities.

          Drawing on a rich person-centred ethnography supplemented with middle-class Vietnamese women’s published autobiographies, it reveals how opportunities for professional work, further education, and leisure lifestyling attract young migrants, particularly female graduates, to Vietnam’s mega-urban Southeast region. Centred on Ho Chi Minh City, it argues that Vietnam’s Southeast enables young women, so long as they remain single, to realize aspirations for betterment that affect not only their own lives, but those of their families and communities who remain in rural Vietnam. It highlights the socio-cultural and material benefits realized through remittances received from urban daughters to emphasize the salience of kinship during periods of social transformation.

          The volume concludes with a wide-ranging look at the emergence of middle classes in Pacific Asia in order to locate the Vietnamese new middle class within a globalizing context.

 

author image not supplied

Catherine Earl is a social anthropologist and policy analyst. Author of Vietnam’s New Middle Classes: Gender, Career, City, she has written extensively on the changing nature of work and welfare, mobilities, gender and social change in contemporary Vietnam and Australia.

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by Ann Marie Leshkowich, College of the Holy Cross
From journal:
SOJOURN Volume 30, no. 2

"Earl offers a cogent account of women’s navigation of the shifting valuations of the cultural capital and bodied in their educational and professional credentials.

"Earl offers a cogent account of women’s navigation of the shifting valuations of the cultural capital and bodied in their educational and professional credentials.

(…) Vietnam’s New Middle Classes effectively illuminates the everyday realities and diversity of middle-class women’s experiences. It will become required reading for scholars and students of contemporary Vietnam and offers instructive comparison for readers interested in gender, urban culture and class in Asia and beyond."

by Erik Harms, Yale University
From journal:
Cross-Currents, June 2015

"(…) the book operates as an accumulation of stories, which makes it a valuable depiction of middle-class women as they navigate the structures of gender and class in the city.

(…) she introduces readers to intimate portraits of individual women, whose life stories inform her interpretation of middle-class aspiration in the city.

"(…) the book operates as an accumulation of stories, which makes it a valuable depiction of middle-class women as they navigate the structures of gender and class in the city.

(…) she introduces readers to intimate portraits of individual women, whose life stories inform her interpretation of middle-class aspiration in the city.

Earl instructively links the focus on education to a longer history of women’s strategies for advancement in postcolonial Saigon, which she reads through a careful analysis of women’s memoirs."

by Victor T. King, University of Leeds and School of Oriental and African Studies
From journal:
ASEASUK Newsletter, No. 57, Spring 2015

"One of Earl’s main arguments and indeed the strength of the book is that it focuses on a frequently neglected element of social class, namely gender.

"One of Earl’s main arguments and indeed the strength of the book is that it focuses on a frequently neglected element of social class, namely gender.

(…) Earl draws on detailed social material from particular individuals as well (‘a person-centred approach’), again an ethnographic strength of this study; she tracked 37 individuals but singled out a small number of individuals for intensive study […].

(…) this study is a fine example of the contribution which detailed ethnographic studies can make to a socially and culturally nuanced understanding of how certain social groupings (in this case young urban-based professional, middle class women) respond to the challenges and opportunities of capitalist and market-oriented transformations in a politically centralised, socialist and rapidly internationalising economy in Southeast Asia."

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