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Urban mobility, public spaces, Vietnam

Van Minh Nguyen is a PhD student and FNRS research fellow at the Université Libre the Bruxelles (LAMC; EASt), where he is part of the ARC project ‘GENEsYs – East Asian Youth: Identities and Practices in Public Space’. His research falls at the intersection of anthopology and urban studies, focussing on physical and social mobility in Ho Chi Minh City.

After the Đổi mới (renovation) reform program in 1986, Vietnam started a gradual shift towards a socialist-oriented market economy. Among the newly accessible consumer goods, the motorbike rapidly emerged as the symbol of this economic and social transition. Motorized two-wheelers have radically changed the Vietnamese cityscape and the way of its fruition, by affecting how people meet, interact, and consume urban spaces. Nowadays, despite the growing number of cars, motorbikes still embody the freedom associated with a constantly expanding market and the post-đổi mới generation’s desire for greater independence from two major agents of social control, the family and the state. In his thesis, he focuses on the increasingly entangled intersections between private aspirations and state policies, economic development, and urbanisation. In particular, based on motorbike ethnography in Ho Chi Minh City’s streetscapes, Minh's research analyses how spatial practices made possible by motorbikes redefine the boundary between public and private spaces, by providing young urbanites a mobile technology of intimacy for the performance of urban identities, gender negotiations and social distinction.


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