Organized Panel Session
There is arguably no other construction material more ubiquitous in Southeast Asia than cement. As a marker of modernity, cement is the primary ingredient in concrete, the technology most often used in public infrastructure projects to construct major highways, dams, bridges, and housing. Cement is not only a technical substance, but also a political matter: it has been used to build empires and utopias, as well as to subvert them. This paper examines the fraught history of cement production in Vietnam as a technology of subjectification in some instances, and that of liberation in others. Cheap, durable and efficient, cement and its alchemical product, concrete, have been central to state efforts at nation building, global diplomacy, and the disciplining of citizens through the production of basic infrastructure. Focusing on Vinh City, I show how cement has served as a binding agent to draw materials, people, and visions together into new social and infrastructural arrangements. In so doing, the paper argues for more comprehensive usage of infrastructure in contemporary scholarship, while attending to the ambivalence, and in some cases opposition, that such infrastructures spark.