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The Boss: Conspicuous Invisibility in Ho Chi Minh City



This article introduces the figure of the Vietnamese boss, (ông chủ), in this case, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of a Ho Chi Minh City securities trading company. The boss's body techniques, lifestyle choices, and movement through different spaces in the city offer a view into the “everyday presentation of wealth” among business leaders who drive much of the economic transformation in contemporary Vietnam. In order to illuminate how the figure speaks to a particular moment in Vietnam's great urban transformation, the essay describes practices of “conspicuous invisibility” through which the boss manages what can and cannot be seen about his wealth. As a figure, the boss stands out against the background of economic privatization, the emergence of a stock market, rapid urbanization, and the changing moral valuation of those who accumulate wealth. The article also suggests that conspicuous invisibility both produces and is produced by new kinds of urban spaces. [Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, Saigon, New Urban Zones, elites].