Seminar: The Infrastructure of Infrastructure in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
About the Seminar
Urban development in Ho Chi Minh City is simultaneously a highly bureaucratic and flexible process, a paradox born out of the city’s development at the nexus of state and market practice—what is now referred to as late socialism. Decentralized government agencies and foreign investors who bring capital and infrastructural expertise to the city negotiate a wide range of city making possibilities. The result is an urban landscape made piecemeal, with each urban development project built, more often than not, in defiance of city plans.
While Ho Chi Minh City produces comprehensive infrastructure plans according to modern rational planning principles, each project is subsequently disassembled and disarticulated in order to deal with Vietnam’s decentralized governing regime and meet the demands of foreign investors, each of whom compete with one another and bring their specific and contrasting historical logics of development. Thus, infrastructure projects are not only diverse in type (i.e. roads, power plants, transportation systems, water management, etc.) but are also conditioned by source and type of investment and by the contingent and conditional connections they forge with government agencies. This diversity creates an array of infrastructure projects, each standing upon their own set of “infrastructures of infrastructure” made up of the different logics of development, various and conflicting legal and regulatory frameworks, historical developments, and principles of planning and growth.
The seminar shows how these differences condition the material outcomes of completed projects in the city by examining the World Bank’s Green Transportation Bus Rapid Transit System and its eventual disarticulation through competition with other foreign investment projects, most notably rail and metro projects that are currently under construction in the city.
About the Speaker
Hun Kim is a Visiting Fellow in the Vietnam Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning with a designated emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include: urban social-spatial transformation under late-socialist and postsocialist regimes, inter-Asian circuits of investment capital in land development, infrastructure and real estate, development theory and governance. His book project, entitled, “Reform Capital: Hedging Saigon’s Urban Future” examines government reforms that facilitate inter-Asian capital flows into urban real estate projects in Saigon, Vietnam.