Vietnam Panel



Youth and Public Spaces in Hanoi

Les jeunes et les espaces publics à Hanoi


Saturday, October 23, 2021


14:15 – 16:00

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The landscape of public spaces is changing rapidly in the Vietnamese capital city. In the last few years, new types of public and semi-public spaces have been introduced by the state, by the corporate private sector, and by groups of citizens. At the same time, various parts of the state and of society are actively redefining the purpose, meaning, and usage of old and new public spaces in the city. This panel looks at the position and roles of different groups of youth in this ongoing transformation of Hanoi’s publicscape. More specifically, the papers in this panel explore how young graffiti writers, experimental and contemporary artists, drivers working for ride-hailing platforms, and rural labour migrants interact with different public spaces in the Vietnamese capital and ways in which they contribute to shape them.

Convenor/Animateur: Danielle Labbé, Université de Montréal; Sarah Turner, McGill University; Pham Thi Thanh Hiên, Université du Québec à Montréal

Chair/Président: Danielle Labbé, Université de Montréal

Discussant/Intervenant: Danielle Labbé, Université de Montréal

Event poster


Writing the Southeast Asian City: The Everyday Politics of Graffiti in Hanoi, Vietnam

Michelle Kee, McGill University

Graffiti has long been recognized as a form of contentious political participation in the Euro-American context. However, the roles these inscriptions play in the urban landscapes of Southeast Asia have received minimal scholarly attention. In the context of Vietnam, a socialist state with little tolerance for public dissent, I investigate how, and by whom, graffiti is created, and to what degree it transgresses public space norms in the country’s capital city, Hanoi. I analyze how young graffiti writers negotiate the social, physical, and cultural boundaries which serve as either deterrents or catalysts for graffiti creation, and consider whether strategies of compliance or everyday resistance are employed in order to create their work. Although there has been minimal academic research on the burgeoning street art scene in Vietnam, the effects that globalization and urbanization have had on the region, and the tactics citizens employ to negotiate state-imposed censorship and restraints, have been studied, positioning this research within a broader area of study. As such, the main objective of this presentation is to explore the motivations behind the creation of graffiti and street art in order to determine how youth identities are constructed and spaces are contested in the controlled urban spaces of Hanoi, Vietnam.

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

Celia Zuberec, McGill University

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.

Urban Youth Motorbike Mobilities and App-based Livelihoods: Competitions, Conflicts, and COVID-19 Concerns on the Streets of Hanoi, Vietnam

Nguyen N. Binh, McGill University

In Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi, the recent rise of new ride-hailing platforms has radically altered and disrupted the activities of “traditional” motorbike taxi or xe ôm. As direct competitors to the informal xe ôm, these platforms predominantly employ much younger drivers aged between 16 and 30 years old. Yet, as with their elder xe ôm compatriots, youth ride-hailing drivers often work under precarious employment arrangements with minimal labour protections. In addition, youth ride-hailing drivers also encounter numerous challenging legal and infrastructural conditions in Hanoi’s present-day mobility scene, including an imminent ban on motorbikes in downtown Hanoi by 2030, and the growth of mega infrastructure projects as part of the Government’s plans to modernize the city’s transport network. This paper aims to investigate the livelihood strategies of youth ride-hailing motorbike taxi drivers in Hanoi, set against the backdrop of such competitors, challenges as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic, despite being largely under control in Vietnam, continues to amplify the precarity and difficulties facing youth drivers in their everyday work and mobility. By drawing on semi-structured and drive-along interviews with youth ride-hailing drivers, I focus on how they gain access to the city’s streets and navigate new urban infrastructures in their political, physical, and technological dimensions. Furthermore, the youth drivers’ daily frictions and conflicts with both the management of their ride-hailing platform companies and with conventional xe ôm drivers reveal a number of broader concerns regarding the future of this two-wheeled livelihood on the streets of Hanoi.

Youth Migrants towards Approach and Use of Public Spaces in Hanoi

Pham Quynh Huong, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences

Public spaces play an important role in the social life to ensure the sustainable development of the environment. Based on analysis of qualitative survey data in five urban wards of Hanoi, with 102 in-depth interviews, the paper explores the approach and use of public spaces (sidewalks, parks, flower gardens, squares . . .) among youth migrants from rural to urban areas and the relationship of public spaces to their development (livelihood support, stress relief, communication, etc.). The initial results show that, due to the nature of work, youth migrants who work as street vendors are very closed to public spaces. Especially, youth migrants mainly prefer unofficial public spaces rather than official ones. In addition, the article will clarify issues related to the negative experiences of young migrants in public spaces such as fraud, stigmatization, discrimination, and their coping strategies to deal with/to adapt to these troubles.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |