War, Trade and Desire: Urban Design and the Counter Public Spheres of Bangkok

Brian McGrath


This paper analyses an emergent public sphere in Bangkok in order to reveal the gap between ideals of public space as representation of power, nationhood, and modernity, versus its social production in everyday political struggles. The setting for political demonstrations recently shifted from royalist-nationalist Ratchadamnoen Avenue to the Ratchaprasong intersection, the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district. Ratchadamnoen, formerly a stage-set for royalist and nationalist pomp, has been continuously occupied for political uprisings.

In contrast, as the political base of protest in Thailand widened, the glittering shopping malls at Ratchaprasong became a new site of protest, fuelled by urban and rural working poor who sensed they could not afford to partake in Bangkok’s phantasmagorical splendours. The paper argues that in following Bangkok’s historical cycles of blood and massacre in the street lies the possibility of finding new forms of urban design and a public sphere not yet imagined in the West.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7480/footprint.7.1.764

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