Visualizing Debt and Credit in Hồ Chí Minh City: A Photographic Approach.”                

Journal Vietnamese Studies, 2021, 16(1): 158-178

While conducting research on debt in the lives of sex workers in Hồ Chí Minh City, I stumbled upon an ad a moneylender had glued to a wall. It revealed that financialization was thriving in Vietnam, and more specifically that credit was rapidly expanding and colonizing the urban landscape. Photography became a tool to visually capture this radical financial transformation. This article argues that photography can be an effective inductive research method for moving from the particular to the general and seeing the big picture. I contend that looking at the world through the camera viewfinder with an open mind can help us to uncover hidden patterns and generate a rich and meaningful overall picture of a research problem. This process facilitates the formation of research perspectives and generalizations based on observations. I support this argument by describing the reflexive journey that drove me from photographing debt records in enclosed spaces to wandering in Hồ Chí Minh City’s streets to document a thriving credit boom. This journey radically transformed my research agenda on credit and debt.