Asian Cities

Asian Alleyways. An Urban Vernacular in Times of Globalization

Marie Gibert-FlutreHeide Imai

Alleyways are an urban form historically shared by most cities in Asia, yet understudied. Asian Alleyways: An Urban Vernacular in Times of Globalization critically explores 'Global Asia' and the metropolization process, specifically from its alleyways, which are understood as ordinary neighbourhood landscapes providing the setting for everyday urban life and place-based identities being shaped by varied everyday practices, collective experiences and forces. This turns the traditional approach of 'global cities' upside-down and contributes to a renewed conception of metropolization as a highly situated process, where forces at play locally, in each alleyway neighbourhood, are both intertwined and labile. Beyond the mainstream, standardising vision of the metropolization process, the book offers a nuanced overview of urban production in Asia at a time of great changes. As such, Asian Alleyways will be welcomed by an array of scholars, students, and all those interested in the modern transformation of Asian cities and their urban cultures, including new approaches to social life, urban change and urban governance.

Dr Marie Gibert-Flutre is Assistant Professor of Geography in the Department of East Asia Studies (LCAO) at the University of Paris. Her research deals with the dynamics of public and private spaces in the production and appropriation of urban space in Vietnam. Her work uses a combination of process-oriented, and social agency perspectives to explore the encounters between state intentions, governing practices, and everyday life during the urbanization process. As Principal Investigator, she manages the Ho Chi Minh City case study of the International SEANNET (Southeast Asia Neighborhoods Network) research program. She has recently published Les envers de la métropolisation: les ruelles de Ho Chi Minh Ville (Vietnam) CNRS Edition, Paris (2019).

Dr Heide Imai is Associate Professor at Senshu University, Faculty of Intercultural Communication, Tokyo, Japan. Heide Imai holds a PhD in Urban Sociology from Manchester Metropolitan University and a MA (2005) in Cultural Studies from Oxford Brookes University. Dr. Imai has taught at different universities in Japan, the UK and Germany and has researched widely about vernacular landscapes, cultural identities and urban practices in times of globalization. She is currently working on new projects in Japan, Korea and China and has published widely, including Tokyo Roji (Routledge, 2017) and Creativity in Tokyo (with M. Ursic, Palgrave, 2020).


Asian Alleyways make an important contribution to Urban Studies at two levels. At the micro and local scale, alleyways exist as extensions of the home, and are intimate spaces of the self and the community of users. The informality and intimacy enable such spaces to be creatively managed resulting in dynamic mixes of different uses. At the metropolitan scale, alleys and lanes as traditional spatial forms have an uneasy existence in the modern city. The different chapters of Asian Alleyways highlight the important local textures that go into the making of city character and yet alleyways are under threat from redevelopment and gentrification as Asian cities undergo rapid change.”

− K.C. Ho, Associate Professor of Sociology and Research Leader, Asian Urbanisms, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

“This dynamic collection brings to life the hidden veins of contemporary urbanity by focusing on an array of alleyways across different cities in Asia. In interweaving colourful sensory aspects of these passages with both granular insights and broad structural critique, Gibert-Flutre and Imai have assembled a multidisciplinary arsenal of chapters that opportunely punctuate and challenge state-of-the-art debates on urbanization in the region and beyond. A must-read and a valuable resource for researchers and students of urban studies, sustainability and everyday life.”

Dr Kelvin E.Y. Low, Associate Professor/Deputy Head of Department, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore

“Within the mainstream study of cities, East Asian and everyday ordinary spaces, forms of long vernacular traditions, remain less-known urbanity. Asian Alleyways: An Urban Vernacular in Times of Globalisation contributes to this field within cross-cultural dialogue and lenses of ubiquitous semi-public, semi-private urban spaces. Focusing on ‘the Other’, which escapes the globalisation and current verticalization processes, where intimate scale, a vibrant urban life and dwelling defines alternative urban spaces, the book takes a case study approach to diverse human scale emergent urbanism. Asian Alleyways is an engaging review of East Asian alleyways that instigates discussion beyond nostalgia, exploring possibilities, qualities, and relevance of local processes of ordinary urban landscapes, and contributes to broadening theoretical questions.”

Milica Muminović, PhD, Lecturer, Architecture, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra