Creative Hubs in Hanoi, Vietnam: Transgressive Spaces in a Socialist State?

Authors: Celia Zuberec*, McGill University , Sarah Turner, McGill University , Danielle Labbé, Université de Montréal
Topics: Asia, Economic Geography
Keywords: Hanoi, Vietnam, Creative Hubs, Collaborative Workspaces, Creative Economy, Everyday Politics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi has recently witnessed the emergence of a new type of cultural space. These new formations are akin to what have been labelled collaborative workspaces or creative hubs in other contexts, namely locales that provide space for individuals to create and collaborate, network, and take part in community engagement and business development in the cultural sector. Hanoi’s hubs range from spaces for visual arts, filmmaking, music and performance, to locales for events, talks and exhibitions. Such spaces have proliferated rapidly since the early 2010s and are all community-led and operated, having been established and developed without state funding. Concurrently, strict state censorship laws have resulted in these independent spaces being frequently restricted in their activities, or facing stiff fines. In some cases, initiatives viewed as too transgressive have been forced to close. Yet, despite facing important financial, cultural, and institutional barriers, these spaces have become important sites for the gathering and formation of the city’s emerging contemporary arts scene and counter-cultures. In this paper we investigate how the organisers and users of Hanoi’s creative hubs draw on a range of subtle political engagement techniques and resistance strategies in their attempts to remain in operation. Based on over 80 semi-structured interviews conducted in summer 2019 with hub owners and users, state officials, and local NGO representatives, we argue that the owners and users of these independent creative hubs are carefully and cleverly challenging state norms while concurrently redefining and expanding Hanoi’s socio-cultural norms.

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