Accepted Paper:

Slow travelling in Ho Chi Minh City: heritage, sustainability, friction and distinction in a postsocialist metropolis  

Author:

Catherine Earl

Paper short abstract:

Slow travelling in Ho Chi Minh City reveals that with its implicit focus on privilege, quality and choices the slow movement obscures an interplay between spatial and social mobilities through which local heritages and global sustainabilities as frictions mark postsocialist social differentiation.

Paper long abstract:

Daily life in postsocialist cities, such as Moscow, Shanghai, Warsaw, Bucharest and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), is characterised as fast and frenetic. Yet, whether by choice or through necessity, slow travelling is the norm. Traffic congestion as friction means motorised transport moves at walking pace. The value ascribed to slowness in postsocialist places centres not so much on different speeds as on choices about spaces for and modes of mobility that were made possible with the lifting of the socialist heritage of travel restrictions and which became widespread after reform with rising household incomes enabling privatised and motorised transportation. Various mobilities mark relative social positions in localised imaginings. The slowness of bicycling or riding the public bus, on the one hand, marks relative distinction associated with future-oriented globalised practices of metropolitan environmental sustainability and, on the other, indicates the class cultural smear of material poverty, physical discomfort and shared practices signifying social inequality and powerlessness. The immobility of private car travel marks qualitatively different distinctions and inequalities than the stasis of public bus transport for different journey-makers. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in HCMC, this paper challenges the positive values of slowness from a postsocialist perspective and explores how the 'right' speed to move is determined and by whom. I argue that, with its implicit focus on privilege, quality and choices, the slow movement obscures an interplay between spatial and social mobilities through which ideas of local heritages and global sustainabilities as frictions mark postsocialist social differentiation.

Panel P069
Slow travelling: a precious heritage or a sustainable strategy for future mobilities? [ANTHROMOB & IUAES-Tourism]