Of (Newly) Other Spaces: Urbanization and Ways of Being Modern in Contemporary Vietnam

Alfred Montoya, Trinity University

Gisele Bousquet. Urbanization in Vietnam. New York: Routledge, 2015. 148 pp. $139 (cloth); $38 (e-book).

Erik Harms. Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016. 304 pp. $35 (paper); e-book free of charge.

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In a 2006 article, anthropologist Hy Van Luong identified a broad, open set of projects then beginning to take shape in the anthropology of Vietnam under the sign of “local-global-state interaction.” These new works attended to changing notions of culture in official discourse on the nation since the mid-twentieth century, changes rooted in local–state relations and in Vietnam’s relationship to the global system. In that piece, Luong called for in-depth historical and comparative multi-sited ethnographic research on the interplay of state, global, and local forces that pays close attention to the larger politico-economic framework within which these interactions occur (2006). Two recent works by Erik Harms and Gisele Bousquet—skilled ethnographers with long experience in their field sites—have certainly met Luong’s challenge, combining nuanced analysis of a wealth of detailed ethnographic material with insights gleaned from historians of Vietnam who have long paid attention to cities, infrastructure, and urban planning, and scholarship from the interdisciplinary domain of urban studies...