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Jessica Lockrem 
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My first book project, Moving Ho Chi Minh City: Planning Public Transit in the
Motorbike Metropolis, based on my dissertation, examines the expert cultures and
power structures that shape transportation infrastructure and how transportation
technologies, in turn, shape everyday life in urban space. To explore the
multinational expertise of the people connected with transportation – planners,
operators, and users – I conducted two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Vietnam.
I argue that trends in transportation planning are shifting from a modernist urbanist
emphasis on speed to a holistic integration of mobility with daily activity. While
planners are often assumed to be concerned mainly with traffic flow, my research
shows these experts recognize transport as an important aspect of the social space
of the public street.

My research intervenes at the intersection of urban anthropology and science and
technology studies by demonstrating how transportation technology has ripple
effects through cities, influencing the form and meaning of urban space. Specifically,
my work rethinks the agency and subjectivity of city planners. While much of the
existing research assumes that the planner is a monolithic, detached technocrat, my
research is among the first to ethnographically explore planners’ perspectives in
Southeast Asia and shows that planners are engaged in internal debates about the
role of transportation in shaping urban life. As the cities of Southeast Asia rapidly
grow, examining the epistemologies and technologies that are guiding their shape
becomes ever more important for understanding urban life.

My next book project, Disruption: Startups, the Sharing Economy, and Urban Life in
Vietnam, explores the effects of burgeoning tech start-ups in the so-called sharing
economy on cities. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are affecting how people relate
to cities and challenging policy makers on how to regulate them. While both of these
Silicon Valley-based companies are operating in Vietnam, other Southeast Asian
startups, such as GrabTaxi, are developing tech platforms to share goods and
services, thus building on the models of these behemoth companies, but with local
knowledge. Local officials must navigate how to regulate these companies. The tech
companies must work within existing structures and cultures to determine how to
gain a share of the market. Residents are navigating what it means to access food
delivery, transportation, and other services through the smart phone, changing
interactions within urban space and creating new ways to enact middle-class status.
The project utilizes ethnographic methods with entrepreneurs, operators, and state
regulators to ask what the sharing economy means for urban life and urban

I am the Editorial Assistant for Cultural Anthropology, the journal of the Society for
Cultural Anthropology. I have been a Contributing Editor for Cultural Anthropology
since 2009, producing podcasts for AnthroPod and conducting many author
interviews and supplemental materials for I also teach courses on
urban issues, contemporary Vietnam, and social studies of science and technology at
St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

Selected Publications

“Bodies in Motion: Attending to Experience, Emotion, the Senses, and Subjectivity in
Studies of Transportation,” Mobility in History 7(1), 50-57, 2016.

“Editorial Introduction,” with Adonia Lugo, Infrastructure, online curated collection,
Cultural Anthropology, 2012

Curator, with Adonia Lugo, Infrastructure, online curated collection, Cultural
Anthropology, 2012 

Summary/Research Interests

urban anthropology, infrastructure, science and technology studies, mobility
studies, political economy, Vietnam, and Southeast Asia.