On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City
Publication Year: 2011
Unlike the idealized Vietnamese model of urban space, Hóc Môn is between worlds, neither outside nor inside but always uncomfortably both. With particular attention to everyday social realities, Harms demonstrates how living on the margin can be both alienating and empowering, as forces that exclude its denizens from power and privilege in the inner city are used to thwart the status quo on the rural edges.
More than a local case study of urban change, Harms’s work also opens a window on Vietnam’s larger turn toward market socialism and the celebration of urbanization—transformations instructively linked to trends around the globe.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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...erated my presence among them, answered my questions, and posed alifetime of new questions. In particular, I thank our neighbors, who intro-duced me to the craziness of life on the edge and who exposed the nitty-gritty realities of “renovation.” Trí and Liêm showed me the intricaciesof getting goods to market and sending their young daughters to a better...
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Introduction: Saigon, Inside Out
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If you ride a motorbike to work from Hóc Môn district into central HoChi Minh City, take a change of clothes. In the dry season, the dust willturn your clothes a dull reddish brown. In the wet season, you are boundto be splashed with mud—assuming, of course, that you are lucky enoughI was offered this advice by Vân, one of Hóc Môn’s lucky residents,...
Part I. Social Edginess
1. Bittersweet Transitions: Urbanization on the Fringe of the City
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There is an edge to Saigon but no physical boundaries. Depictions of theouter-city district of Hóc Môn form a congeries of symbolic referencesand everyday realities rife with double-meanings. In history books, HócMôn’s Bà Điểm commune is famous for the failed anti-French uprisingled by Phan Văn Hớn and Nguyễn Văn Quá in February 1885. The name...
2. Power and Exclusion on the Edge: The Conflation of Rural and Urban Spaces
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Power and exclusion mark the edge. In contemporary Hóc Môn the primary-colored distinction between city and country fades to gray. Yetde spite their fuzziness, and regardless of how they appear from a vantagepoint above society, the categorical oppositions of rural versus urbanand inside versus outside persist. For better or for worse, these catego -...
Part II. Space, Time, and Urban Expansion
3. Future Orientations in the Country of Memory: Social Conceptions of Time
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Ten years ago there were hardly any houses here, said “Red-Faced” Minh“Mặt Đỏ,” the xe ôm motorbike driver who often gave me a ride to myfield site from the end of the inner-city bus line. Just vegetable gardensand rice fields, a scattered bunch of leaf-roofed shacks (nhà lá).The air-conditioned Saigon Star bus with cheap fares subsidized by...
4. Negotiating Time and Space: Household, Labor, Land, and Movement
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The constructs of rural and urban Vietnam and of the inside and the out-side in Ho Chi Minh City fashion images and expectations of distinctspatiotemporal worlds bifurcated into discrete, opposed categories. Asidealized asymptotes, the inside is understood as having a certain urbantime orientation regimented by the clock and the outside as having a cer-...
Part III. Realizing the Ideal
5. The Road to Paradise: Building the Trans-Asia Highway
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When he pulled up to the café Lam Sơn a few weeks after his accident,Ba Ven appeared as a silhouette against the steady traffic of motorbikes,buses, and dump trucks passing to and fro on the half-finished section ofthe Trans-Asia Highway behind him. Framed by the rectangular screenof bright sun where the café opens to the road, he took a few long min-...
6. The Problem of Urban Civilization on Saigon’s Edge
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While conducting fieldwork in Hóc Môn’s Tân Thới Nhì commune, Iundertook a series of interviews with elderly household heads in orderto collect local histories and to learn about the transformations of spatialand social relations in the district. Hoping to follow the ethical protocolsof research and to maintain an air of openness with the local district and...
Conclusion: What Edges Do
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The story of Saigon’s edge is a complex one entangled with the story ofurban transformation; dramatic changes in the Vietnamese political andeconomic orientation to socialism, capitalism, and global integration; andthe legacy of the Vietnamese Revolution and its changing trajectory inthe postwar and postrenovation period. In telling this complex story...
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Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2011