Development and Urbanization
The polysemous notion of “neighbourhood” refers both to an intimate place of social encounters and a field of forces, played out and performed on a daily basis (Lefebvre 1991). In Hồ Chí Minh City, the ubiquity of alleyway neighbourhoods has led to the development of a strong sense of local territoriality and a vibrant social life. But, at times of globalization, new forces have entered the local game, increasing land value and, therefore land pressure. As a result, the social agreement which sustains a balance between the various uses taking place in these alleyways is increasingly being challenged. In particular, social inequalities in the access of street-as-resource have dramatically increased. In this renewed context, I draw on Henri Lefebvre’s conception of “rhythmanalysis” (1992) to shed light on local power relationships in neighbourhoods. The “rhythmanalysis” seeks to capture the everyday rhythms and dynamics of social life through time, space, bodies, practices, and senses. Methodologically, urban dwellers are placed at the centre of 16-hour-long ethnographic observation surveys in ordinary neighborhoods, as they literally produce urban rhythms. Observing and analysing the waltz of Hồ Chí Minh City’s local activities through whole days provide not only insight into the functioning of the polyvalent nature of its neighbourhoods, but also reveals the micro-geopolitics of the metropolis at times of globalization. As such, local negotiations of street rhythms through space and time are highly political. This approach hence opens up perspectives for comparative analyses of the neighborhood as a political arena.