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A Mirror for Thai National Politics: The Curious Case of Pom Mahakan

Colloquium with Prof. Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University

Friday, February 22, 2008
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
10383 Bunche Hall
UCLA Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The so-called "Rattanakosin Island Project" is an attempt to recreate the old dynastic city of Bangkok as a national monument and enhanced tourist attraction.  It has become the site of protracted arguments about the role of the West in the formation of modern Thai culture and politics.  Within this area, the tiny Pom Mahakan community -- target for one of the first collective evictions of the project under a philosophy that prefers broad vistas and monumental spaces to the messiness of social life -- has become a surprisingly important focus for some of the principal strains of current Thai politics.  Its struggle to survive reveals many of the paradoxes, most notably the tension between egalitarianism and hierarchy and between a powerful assertion of community rights and the persistent emphasis on national unity, that infuse the present-day search for a collective Thai identity in the face of rapid global change.

Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology and Curator of European Ethnology in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University where he has taught since 1991. His research interests include social theory, history of Anthropology, social poetics, politics of history; Europe (especially Greece & Italy), and Thailand.

Parking at UCLA costs $8.

Cost : Free and open to the public.


Sponsor(s): Center for Southeast Asian Studies

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