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On the back of a motorbike: Middle-class mobility in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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ABSTRACT

“Mobility” is a key concept in understanding processes of globalization and class formation. In this article, I examine motorbike mobility in Ho Chi Minh City and its role in reordering social stratification in urban Vietnam. In the years following trade liberalization, motorbikes emerged as exemplary symbols of purchasing power, displaying both monetized and motorized power. In response to the exponential increase in the number of motorbikes, Vietnamese state agencies inscribed streets with divisions to separate different classes of vehicles and regulate the flow of traffic. Motorbikes, I argue, elude attempts to regulate their movement precisely because they embody the very mobility promised by economic reforms. [Vietnam, traffic, commodity, circulation, public space, mobility]

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