“Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon” Seminar

On the morning of July 10, 2017, the Center for Vietnamese and Southeast Asian Studies hosted a scientific seminar on “Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon” at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities – Vietnam National University HCM City. The event’s attendees included lecturers and students of Faculty of Urban Studies, Sociology, History, English Linguistics and Literature, Anthropology, Cultural Studies and Center for International Studies. It also attracted the participation of some guests from the Polish Academy of Sciences, HCM City Institute for Development Studies, Southern Institute of Social Sciences, and National Academy of Public Administration.Dr. Erik Harms, Professor of Anthropology at Yale University (USA), who was the speaker at the seminar, presented two stories in the process of building a modern city center in Phu My Hung and Thu Thiem New Urban Zones.

In Phu My Hung, the establishment of a civilized town has brought a comfortable life to those having middle-class and affluent standards of living. With over 100 people interviewed, the fieldwork’s result revealed that they enjoy their life in the area for they think that such a model of urban area helps raise people’s awareness of the environment and keep it clean. Besides, Phu My Hung’s development was carefully planned, which helped avoid the phenomenon of land grab causing disorder. Through his research, Prof. Erik Harms stated that the process of building a modern civilized city center creates a new social model with three highlights: (1) bring chaos to order, (2) forsake the past, and (3) build a civilized society, or, in other words, civil society.

Also from his studies on the process of conviction, resettlement and construction of the Thu Thiem New Urban Zone, Prof. Harms found that the idea of building such an area was welcomed by most residents and management officers. However, this plan faced a similar problem as Phu My Hung’s, i.e. “look but not see”. More specifically, the area of Thu Thiem used to be comprised of over 14,600 households with a close-knit community and many traditional beliefs and religions. But during the process of land liberation and resettlement in order to build the Thu Thiem New Urban Zone, policy-makers and residents were mainly concerned about land prices (compensation payment/m2), which quickly ruined the community spirit and its cultural values.

Prof. Harms’ seminar also raised some other issues in the urban development of Phu My Hung and Thu Thiem. Researchers from different institutes and universities apart from HCMC USSH enthusiastically got involved in discussions, contributing to the success of the event.


Dr.Erik Harms, Professor of Anthropology at Yale University (USA), is speaking at the seminar.

(from CVSEAS)

  • Research