This talk examines consumption patterns in Vietnam’s shifting transportation market and considers them within broader design and marketing infrastructures shaping emerging markets in the region. First speaker Ivan Small explores the strategies and histories of Vietnamese buyers and sellers participating in the transportation commodity market starting with the growth of motorcycle. He examines how motorcycles were used not only for consumptive purposes but also served as stores of economic and symbolic value. However, shifts in manufacturing and recent regional and international trade agreements mandating tariff reductions are reorienting material and temporal relations to the market. In this transition period in which the meanings and valuations of the motorcycle are shifting, anticipations of automobiles are paramount. In the second part of the talk he moves from micro examinations of motorcycle and automobile user experiences to macro perspectives on market design to discuss how a transnational transportation industry is anticipating and engaging new consumer publics in not only Vietnam but the Asian region more broadly through an exploration of affective notions of mobility, and in the process potentially framing an emerging Asian “cultural market” around and with them. He suggests that identifying collaborative opportunities for stakeholders in academia, industry and policy to explore issues of transportation and mobility preferences and developments in Asia may be a productive arena for further lateral learning and analytic insight.
Small is a sociocultural anthropologist and assistant professor at Central Connecticut State University.