Kimberly Kay Hoang: Playing in the Gray - Offshoring and Foreign Investment in Frontier Markets


Monday, April 12, 2021, 12:15pm to 1:15pm



Kimberly Kay Hoang, Associate Professor of Sociology and the College and Director of Global Studies, University of Chicago

This seminar was not recorded.

Kimberly Kay HoangPlaying in the Gray is a comparative study of how global elites capitalize on risky frontier markets. The book traces 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.

Innovating ethnographic methods, I traveled over 350,000 miles to interview over 300 financial professionals including: private wealth managers, fund managers, chairpeople, local entrepreneurs, C-suite executives, lawyers, bankers, auditors, and company secretaries. To theorize the process of playing in the gray the goal of this book is three-fold: (1) to uncover the structure, which I refer to as spiderweb capitalism, (2) to examine the people who make and move money around the world and (3) to reveal their strategies for moving money through offshore vehicles and the moral dilemmas they confront on the ground in frontier markets by having to play in the gray.

The book uncovers the complex networks created by financial professionals who move money across borders, shift legal geographies through multi-country tax structures, forge interpersonal ties with political elites, and make money out of playing in legal, financial, and political gray zones.

About the speaker

Kimberly Kay Hoang is an Associate Professor of Sociology and the College and the Director of Global Studies at the University of Chicago.


She received the 2020 Lewis A Coser Award from the American Sociological Association Section on Sociological Theory— a mid-career award for Theoretical Agenda Setting. Her books and articles have been awarded over 18 prizes from several different professional associations. In addition to her research, she is the winner of the 2018 Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Teaching at the University of Chicago.


Dealing in Desire, by Kimberly Kay HoangDr. 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.


Her work has also been published in American Sociological Review, Social Problems, Gender & Society, City & Community, Contexts, and the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.


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See also: Spring 2021