Accepted Paper:

Moralising disability: encounters with incivility in Vietnamese urban public space  

Author:

Catherine Earl

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the moralisation of disability by exploring interactions between normative and non-normative bodies in public spaces. Surprising behaviours among mass transit bus users reveal the exclusionary influences of pervasive social conformity and rising incivility in Ho Chi Minh City.

Paper long abstract:

The interaction of strangers in Vietnamese public spaces is not a new experience. But a growing culture of individuality in the increasingly wealthy and socially segregated context of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC, formerly Saigon) makes stranger interaction a more rare experience. The introduction of a mass transit bus system in contemporary HCMC has opened up new mobile public spaces. Riding on the bus and waiting at the bus stop offer new places to encounter others socially, particularly as gentrification has limited the public spaces where people from different backgrounds can, or must, interact. The encounters of bus commuting involve a stop-start mobility that generates ethnographic moments and instances rather than sustained interactions. This paper explores ethnographic moments that reveal im/moral pacts between commuters in public spaces and it contributes to a discussion of the moralisation of differently abled bodies and disability. I analyse interactions on Saigon Buses and at bus stops between bus users with normative and non-normative bodies, including three commuters with physical disability (cerebral palsy, amputation, polio); a heavily pregnant middle-class professional; a newborn baby being taken home; and an obese farmer on a long-haul journey. Surprising behaviours among mass transit bus users reveal the exclusionary influences of pervasive social conformity coupled with the rise of everyday incivility in Ho Chi Minh City.

Panel Imm01
Individuality, incivility, immorality