ANTH Seminar Series | Rhythms of the State: Active Citizenship and Relational Power in Urban Mobility Governance in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Banal journeymaking and informal mobilities are at the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s rhythms and relations. Place-dependent forms of transport, such as public Saigon Bus services, private Mai Linh and Vinasun taxis, and Grab motorbike ride shares, operate in relations with and under the close scrutiny of riders, social media users, the mass media, business rivals and local authorities. The socio-historical situatedness of informal mobilities is observable in posts, stories and reports about sensational traffic incidents, corporate scandals, and simple commuter complaints.
Taking a rhythmanalysis approach to diurnal journeymaking – commuting, visiting, shopping, leisure – I explore how the feel and flow of the city is shaped by transport relations in Ho Chi Minh City. In this context, I analyse rhythms and relations of recent transport company policy reform.
Firstly, I explore in what ways informal mobilities are standardising and formalising through alternative forms of active citizenship expressed in social and mass media campaigning and the preferences of transport users for global transport infrastructures such as timetables, e-ticketing and real time apps. Secondly, I consider to what extent policy is reformed in response to legal challenges by competing companies offering useful and popular forms of transport. Thirdly, I evaluate the reach of the Vietnamese (single party communist) state in urban mobility governance.
About the speaker
Catherine Earl, PhD, is a social anthropologist and policy analyst. Her research about contemporary Vietnam explores intersections of spatial and social mobilities, transformations of work and welfare, and social construction of knowledge.
She has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta since 2000. Currently she is working on the Saigon Bus, a project that explores post-socialist sociality, (in)civility, (im)mobility, and public spaces in mega-urban Vietnam. Her recent books, both with Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Press, are Vietnam’s New Middle Classes: Gender, Career, City (2014) and Mythbusting Vietnam: Facts, Fictions, Fantasies (2018).