Hung Vo

DPhil in Sustainable Urban Development


Diasporic Capital and Urban Change in Vietnam

Research abstract

In recent years, remittances have become the cynosure for policymakers and development practitioners due to its potential to support national economic growth. The World Bank projected that remittances will soon outpace overseas aid and foreign direct investment combined in low- and middle-income countries. A wealth of literature has also shown a significant relationship between remittances and poverty reduction. Despite its purported role in promoting economic growth, few studies have explored how remittances affect urban development. This dissertation investigates how remittances, or what I refer to as “diasporic capital,” impact real estate speculation in Vietnam. I argue that inherited notions of remittances are outdated and do not reflect emergent forms of expenditure in the urban built environment. Within the context of growing positive attention on remittances, I conclude that it can lead to undesirable urban outcomes without adequate policy safeguards.


Idalina Baptista


Hung's current research explores the financial architecture of diasporic capital in Vietnam’s rapidly urbanizing cities. This project aims to connect investment behaviors by overseas Vietnamese to broader debates on financialization, real estate speculation, and transnational urbanism to understand how these diasporic capitalists affect the urban built environment. He is also concerned with anthropological questions of identity and community that accompany migrants' decision to invest in the homeland and the transient spaces they occupy. 

Hung was previously a GEO Fellow at UNEP and a Donald M Payne Fellow at USAID. At Harvard, he was a Negotiation Research Fellow at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Economics. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies from Cornell University and a Master in Urban Planning from Harvard University.


Peer-Reviewed Articles:

Tang, Z., Zhang, L., Xu, F., & Vo, H. (2015). Examining the role of social media in California’s drought risk management in 2014. Natural Hazards79 (1), 171-193.

Book Chapters:

Vo, H., & Anderson, D. D. (2020). Building the city from abroad: Viet Kieu and the rights to Saigon. In Governing Cities (pp. 142-156). Routledge.

Reports, Case Studies and Others:

Vo, H. et al. (2020). "Many Ways to Get There: Securing Public Investments in Richmond, VA." Case Study. No. 0022TC. Case Study. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University.

Vo, H. et al. (2020). "Beyond the Table: Infrastructure Development in Kampala, Uganda." Case Study. No. 0023TC. Case Study. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University.

UN Environment (Contributing Author). (2019). Global Environment Outlook – GEO-6: Healthy Planet, Healthy People. Nairobi, Kenya. University Printing House, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 745 Pages.

UN Environment (Contributing Author). (2017). Global Environment Outlook –GEO-6: Regional Assessment for North America. United Nations Environment Programme. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme.

Vo, H. (2017). "Blue Ribbon Panel Calls for a Stronger UN-HABITAT." Huffington Post.

Research interests

transnational urbanism, digital platforms, labour and mobility, and climate adaptation.