Critical Perspectives on Heritage from Below
Edited by Hamzah Muzaini and Claudio Minca
Chapter 3: Motorbikes as ‘aspirational’ heritage: rethinking past, present and future in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the motorbike presents a paradox: it is the fundamental mode of transportation throughout the country yet it is also a relatively recent entrant into the country’s transport market. It is one of the country’s most important signs of class, mobility and identity yet it is already being replaced in stature by the automobile. It is a representation of timelessness and newness; it is both the cornerstone of Vietnamese mobility and rejected as being out of date. This chapter considers the construction of heritage in Vietnam against the tensions inherent to the motorbike through a framework of ‘aspirational heritage’. The author challenges the idea that heritage is something with a strong historical dimension and instead focuses on the ways in which heritage is constructed in the present and shapes the future. In imagining and practicing the motorbike as something basic to ‘Vietnameseness’, though also fleeting to that identity, the author argues that heritage ‘from below’ demonstrates the arbitrary temporalities and memory-making machinery at play in conventional understandings of heritage.
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