Charton, L. et Boudreau, J.-A. (2017). ‘We or them,’‘you and I,’and ‘I’: spaces of intimacy and (not so) public displays of affection in Hanoi. Gender, Place & Culture, 24(9), 1303-1322.
Through an exploratory study of romantic heterosexual couples in a public park situated in Hanoi’s outskirts, this article offers a conceptual rethinking of a western understanding of the park’s public/private dichotomy which can then be used to better appreciate how these categories are evolving in western urbanizing societies and their impacts on gender relations. By developing a relational, spatialized understanding of how young romantic couples justify their ‘transgressive’ displays of sexual intimacy in public spaces in contemporary urban Vietnam, this article focuses on how couples, especially women, manage their visibility. This analysis confronts the public civilizational discourse on Vietnamese sexual restraint by analyzing how young couples justify their romantic displays by creating an intimate space within a public environment. This space of visible intimacy is justified through their commitment to marriage. For the individuals involved in these romantic couples, visibility is justified, particularly for young women, through the enjoyment of a newly gained sexual autonomy as they migrate to the city.