Erik Harms

Social Sciences (Anthropology)

Associate Professor


View Curriculum Vitae

Associate Professor Erik Harms is a social-cultural anthropologist specialising in Southeast Asia and Vietnam. His ethnographic research in Vietnam has focused on the social and cultural effects of rapid urbanisation on the fringes of Saigon, today’s Ho Chi Minh City. His first book, Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City (University of Minnesota Press, 2011), develops the concept of “social edginess” and explores how the production of symbolic and material space intersects with Vietnamese concepts of social space, rural-urban relations, and notions of “inside” and “outside”. His second book, Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon (University of California Press, 2016) is a study of luxury housing and mass eviction in Ho Chi Minh City. As a whole, Assoc Prof Harms’ ethnographic research has worked to show how the study of social space can reveal unspoken relationships of power and ideology in post reform-era Vietnamese cities.

While grounded ethnographically in Vietnam, his research and teaching seeks at all turns to connect with larger world-historic processes, unraveling the interaction between culture and politics, and the ways in which everyday acts are informed by larger political agendas. Assoc Prof Harms offers a rotating mix of courses on Southeast Asian area studies, postwar Vietnam, urban anthropology, as well as theories of space, time, and social action.

From 2018—2020, Assoc Prof Harms is serving as the President of the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology.

Urban Anthropology
Southeast Asia
Ho Chi Minh City

Luxury and Rubble: Civility and Dispossession in the New Saigon. University of California Press

Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity. co-edited with Joshua Barker and Johan Lindquist. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013

Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City. University of Minnesota Press, 2011

Select Articles
Harms E. 2016. Urban Space and Exclusion in Asia. Annual Review of Anthropology 45: 45-61.

Harms E. 2016. Modern Views, Unblocked: Looking into the Distance in Phu My Hung, a Vietnamese New Urban Zone. The Anthropological Quarterly 89(2): 369-398.

Harms E. 2015. Porous Enclaves: Blurred Boundaries and Incomplete Exclusion in South East Asian Cities. Southeast Asia Research 23 (2): 151-167.

Harms E. 2013. Eviction time in the new Saigon: Temporalities of Displacement in the Rubble of Development. Cultural Anthropology, Volume 28, Issue 2, pages 344–368.

Harms E. 2013. The Boss: Conspicuous Invisibility in Ho Chi Minh City. City & Society 25(2): 195-215.

Harms E. 2012. Beauty as Control in the New Saigon: Eviction, New Urban Zones, and Atomized Dissent in a Southeast Asian City. American Ethnologist 39(4):735-750.

Ethnographies of Urban Asia
Modern Southeast Asia