Recombinant Urban Hedging Practices in Late-Socialist Saigon – a seminar by Dr Hun Kim (Fri, 10 February 2017)

Speaker: Dr Hun Kim (Postdoctoral Research Fellow, ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute)
Date: Friday, 10 February 2017
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS8, Level 6, Conference Room (06-46)


Buoyed by the reform mandate to commodify what was once collective land, Saigon’s government agencies have partnered with investors from East and Southeast Asia as well as with development institutions from the West, to reimagine and build the world-class city. These movements of urban capital and expertise do not circulate abstractly or uniformly. The city is made based on variant forms of connection between an array of different sources of capital, each bringing with them their historical expertise in urban development and/or urban investment in their home countries as well as their connections to both local and national government in the late socialist state. These differences are exacerbated by paradigmatic shifts in both urban modelling and risk profiles of development finance. As the “citational” references of the world-class city rapidly move from West to East (Aihwa Ong and Ananya Roy 2011), so must the art of governing urban space be open and flexible to many of these alternative visions for the city and their methods of finance, design and construction.

This talk explores how the city uses its powers of exception to govern speculatively, effectively hedging the many alternative urban futures proposed and built by transnational urban capital. These futures carry with them different and conflicting ethical regimes and modes of governance whose conflicts in the present are suspended by maintaining a position of simultaneity, or what Abdumaliq Simone characterizes as “a general wariness of pinning things down” (2016).  These practices are often associated with how postsocialist and late-socialist regimes maintain “recombinant” rationales such that assets can be valued and held “according to more than just one legitimizing principle” (David Stark, 1996). I argue this logic can be mapped onto urban governance and regional capital flows.

About the speaker

Dr Hun Kim is a postdoctoral research fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include: urban social-spatial transformation under late-socialist and postsocialist regimes, inter-Asian circuits of investment capital in land development and real estate, development theory and governance. His book project, entitled, “Reform Capital: Hedging Saigon’s Urban Future” examines government reforms that facilitate inter-Asian capital flows into urban real estate projects in Saigon, Vietnam.