Despite their important sociocultural role, sidewalks have been studied by remarkably few scholars. In this book, the author provides a multilayered case study of sidewalks in a distinctive geographical area. It focuses on Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a rapidly growing and evolving city.
For most, the term public space conjures up images of large, open areas where people congregate, socialize, and exchange thoughts and goods: the ancient Greek agora; modern town community centers; vast, green parks for festivals, games, and meetings. In many of the world's major cities, however, public spaces like these are not woven into the urban fabric. In urban areas, business and social lives have always been conducted along main roads, and when vehicles overtook the roads, the essential public spaces were relegated to sidewalks-which has led to clashes over the hotly contested rights of pedestrians, street vendors, tourists, and governments to use sidewalks. Despite their important sociocultural role, sidewalks have been studied by remarkably few scholars. With Sidewalk City, Annette Miae Kim provides the first multilayered case study of sidewalks in a distinctive geographical area. She focuses on Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a rapidly growing and evolving city. Throughout its history, the city's sidewalks served as areas for community-talking, eating, playing, and selling. Today, however, thousands of street vendors trek continuously with their wares on shoulders or carts, struggling to eke out a living since police began enforcing laws that bar non-pedestrians from sidewalks for the sake of traffic flow, public health, and cosmopolitan appearance. In her fascinating study of how Ho Chi Minh City's society is re-negotiating sidewalk space, Kim shows how it is possible to successfully share the vital public space of sidewalks and meet the needs of diverse populations.
Annette Miae Kim is associate professor of public policy and the founding director of the Spatial Analysis Lab at the University of Southern California.