Spaces of Innovation and Resistance: An Investigation of Creative Hubs in Hanoi

Celia Zuberec, McGill University


Youth and Public Spaces in Hanoi


Within Hanoi, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the past decade has witnessed the proliferation of Creative Hubs. Such spaces embody the values of collaboration, innovation, and community and have greatly contributed to the city’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. From experimental music centres to contemporary film studios, such hubs are establishing a new precedent for what it means to create “Vietnamese art.” However, such advances have not been made in a frictionless environment. Indeed, although numerous hubs have emerged within the past years, scores of others have closed. The first intention of this paper is thus to establish the reasons for the emergence and disappearance of Hanoi’s Creative Hubs. I find that while these spaces provide the city’s youth and artistic communities with access to platforms, support networks, and educational resources, strict censorship laws, lack of state policy support, and financial restrictions produce major hindrances to their operations. The second part of this paper therefore seeks to investigate the strategies that Creative Hubs utilize in order to ensure their stability. Significantly, I find that hub owners draw on a collection of formal and informal politics in order to attempt to influence new policies while evading those that are restrictive. Informed by 80 semi-structured interviews conducted in 2019 with hub owners and users, state officials, and local NGO representatives, this paper argues that by challenging state policies, Creative Hubs are able to engage in a process of alternative-value creation that has already begun to impact the city’s socio-cultural norms.

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