Understanding the City Production from Inside: A View from Hồ Chí Minh City’s Alleyways Neighbourhoods – a seminar by Dr Marie Gibert (Wed, 11 November 2015)

Speaker: Dr Marie Gibert (Asia Research Institute, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Pursuing the “art of being global” (Roy and Ong, 2011), Hồ Chí Minh City falls more and more within what can be called an “urbanism of projects”, leading to a rupture with its historic organic urban growth. Once low, dense and organic, the Southern Vietnamese metropolis engaged into a steady pace verticalization process in a functionalist perspective, especially in new urbanized areas flourishing at their edges (Khu đô thị mới). But beyond new iconic urban projects and glittering business districts, the everyday nature of the city production still takes place in the interiority of its specific urban pattern, namely in the back-alley neighbourhoods. These ancient neighbourhoods are characterized by the “smallness” of their plots division and urban forms, and by the very high density of population they foster.

Thus, the goal of the talk is to analyze how the metropolization process affects the inherited urban patterns and the daily life of ordinary residents in Hồ Chí Minh City today. Reading the contemporary production of urban space through this lens provide insights not only on the evolution of an inherited spatial apparatus, but also on the social and political dimensions of the Vietnamese urbanity today.

About the speaker
Marie Gibert received her Ph.D. in urban geography from the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in June 2014. She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI, National University of Singapore) in the Asian Urbanisms Cluster. Her research deals with the dynamics of public and private spaces in the development of Asian cities today, as well as place-making and expressions of the collective realm. She has been conducting fieldwork in Ho Chi Minh City for more than six years, during which time she regularly taught urban planning at the University of Architecture and Urban Planning. Her Ph.d. proposed a transdisciplinary and in-depth ethnographic study of the alleyways network (hẻm) in the urban districts of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Considering the figure of the alleyway both as an urban form and vibrant public space, her work is at the crossroad between urban planning, architecture and social issues.