Assignment 3: Response to “Seen and unseen: Ho Chi Minh City’s sidewalk life”


This week’s reading is Sidewalk City‘s first chapter “Seen and unseen: Ho Chi Minh City’s sidewalk life”, written by Annette Kim.

In this chapter, she is explaining about her 3 methods of mapping Ho Chi Minh city’s sidewalk. Her research includes:

  1. spatial ethnography:
    a method of spatial ethnography that joins together social science research and physical spatial analysis to uncover how sidewalks are actually used and the social processes and meaning of that use”
  2. property rights of public
    “many possible systems for organizing space”

  3. critical cartography
    “mapping overlooked spaces and people”

Overall, the part that struck me the most is about how to conduct a comprehensive research by going down to the space and interact with the locals. By having research conducted this way, one would have a better comprehensive of the field, and he would avoid making a project that does not resonate well with the society.

This weekend, I was not in Singapore. I went back to my hometown in Surabaya, Indonesia. Here, I noticed similarities between Ho Chi Minh City and Surabaya in how the society used up the pedestrians. Here are some photos that I took while I was on the way by car.

Through the assigned reading, I learned from Annette Kim about a glimpse of sidewalk life. Honestly, although I have been in Surabaya since I was born, I have not really used the pedestrian often. My mobility in the city depends on my family car. Therefore, it was interesting for me to relook at the sidewalk that has always been invisible for me.

Some questions that I have with regards to the reading:

  1. I understand that the author had invested a big amount of time being in Ho Chi Minh between 1996 and 2010. There must be a lot of changes in the city, as the author has admitted as well in the book. I wonder how she depicts the ever changing the city’s sidewalk scene in the map, and until how long the map will remain relevant?
  2. Who will benefit most from her sidewalk map? The vendors? The police? The government? The city dwellers?

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