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Sociology Colloquium Series: Kimberly Hoang, University of Chicago

Uptown Campus
Howard-Tilton Memorial Library

Sociology Colloquium Series: Kimberly Hoang, University of Chicago


Playing in the Gray is a comparative study of global capital flows. Innovating ethnographic methods, I traveled over 350,000 miles to map a network of global investors. I traced the flow of capital from offshore funds in places like the Cayman Islands, Samoa, and Panama to special-purpose vehicles or holding companies in Singapore and Hong Kong, before they were invested in risky markets onshore in Vietnam and Myanmar. I examined how investors capitalize on frontier markets—where rule of law is absent, regulations can quickly change, government intervention is high, and corruption is rife. Drawing on interviews with over 300 financial professionals including— private wealth managers, fund managers, chairpeople, local entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, lawyers, bankers, auditors, and company secretaries—this is the first known global ethnography to include extensive interviews with a diverse set of professionals who operate with great immunity as they move capital around the world. By triangulating concepts in the humanities, economics, and law, Playing in the Gray moves from a macro-level perspective of global capital flows, to a meso-level analysis of how firms syndicate risk through complex offshoring structures as they set up tax structures across multiple jurisdictions, and finally to a micro-level analysis of individual actors moral regimes of justification and their personal experiences of feast and famine in navigating gray economies.


Kimberly Kay Hoang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and the College at the University of Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in 2011 from the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and in 2012 she won the American Sociological Association Best Dissertation Award. Dr. Hoang is the author of, Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work (2015) published by the University of California Press. Dealing in Desire is the winner of seven distinguished book awards from multiple sections of the American Sociological Association, the National Women Studies Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Association for Asian Studies. With funding support from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Global Scholar Award, she is currently working on her second book project Playing in the Gray that involves a comparative study of the articulation of inter-Asian flows of capital and foreign investment in Southeast Asia. Her work has been published in American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Gender & Society, City & Community, Contexts, and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Her peer reviewed journal articles have won over 10 prizes from the ASA, SWS, VSG, and AAS [Sociologists for Women in Society, Vietnam Scholars Group, Association for American Studies, and the American Sociological Association: Section on Global & Transnational Sociology, Section on Race, Gender and Class, Section on Sociology of Sex & Gender, Section on Sociology of Body and Embodiment, Section on Asia and Asian America, and the Section on Sexualities].

Sociology Department