Seen and Unseen
Seen and Unseen
Ho Chi Minh City’s Sidewalk Life
This chapter introduces Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s sidewalk life as an exemplar case in the midst of the current global foment where governments and people are searching for new ways to use and govern this important public space. This chapter outlines fundamental epistemological problems that have been hindering our exploration of this terrain of opportunity and conflict: old boundaries between social science, physical space, and urban design disciplines and conceptual dichotomies such as public/private and formal/informal fail to address the conditions of rapid immigration and urbanization while often introducing perilous urban planning interventions. The basis for the rest of the book, the chapter overviews an alternative theoretical framework for understanding public space that integrates both its physicality and social structure: a) a spatialized ethnography is needed to uncover overlooked urban populations and actual, situated spatial practices rather than assumed ones, b) a rehabilitated property rights theory which views public space in terms of socially negotiated and enforced entitlements and liabilities between property owners, police, street vendors, and the general public and c) a critical cartography that maps new knowledge about urban space.
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