EVICTION TIME IN THE NEW SAIGON: Temporalities of Displacement in the Rubble of Development

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ABSTRACT

This article describes the temporality of eviction in a rubble-strewn site of urban demolition in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where over 14,000 households are being evicted to create an ambitious “new urban zone.” Eviction thrusts many residents into an alternative time-world of enforced waiting, marked by an oppressive sense of being suspended in time. For some residents, however, an alternative temporality marked by indifference and disinterested detachment disrupts the project's timeline and thwarts the temporal designs of planners. Attention to the play of time reveals important social dynamics of everyday urban development and shows that acts of land clearance and reactions to them are more complex than simple battles over land and money. Most significantly, the difference between oppressive, alienating “waiting” and empowering, socially productive “hanging out” (chơi) is conditioned by the different ways social actors understand productive activity as an expression of agency played out in time.

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