Development and Urbanization
Many scholars consider HCMC a “worlding city” (Ong & Roy, 2011), where ambitious plans and dreams modeled after Singapore or Kuala Lumpur guide the production of modern urban space. Yet, little is known about the ways in which individual aspirations and imaginations fit within this “art of being global.” Drawing on extended interviews with over thirty urbanites, this paper investigates in particular how HCMC residents imagine their past and future mobility practices within the dialectics between socioeconomic, urban, and self-development. Individual experiences of mobility transitions are discussed in the context of actual and projected life trajectories, and against the backdrop of continuous transformations of the urban space. The findings reveal that personal aspirations to new mobilities—the cyclist expects to drive a motorbike in the near future, the motorcyclist an automobile—relate to a wide range of worlding practices; as people envision new ways of getting around they also claim changes in where and how they live, shop, work, or mingle in the city, as part of their personal experience of development. Such narratives of self-development help explain the little to no resistance to ambitious transportation policies such as a ban on motorbikes, this endogenous transportation mode that currently serves the mobility needs of most and suits the dominant urban form: a maze of narrow alleyways housing eighty percent of the urban population. The lived space of urban mobility therefore provides a window on urban modernism, as people imagine ways to make themselves at home in a constantly changing city.