Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Abstract Serhat Ünaldi

Space Wars: Siam-Ratchaprasong and the Politics of Place in Thailand

Since the beginning of the new millennium Siam-Ratchaprasong has emerged as the indisputable city center of Bangkok. Yet, its common designation as Bangkok's “shopping district” still fails to reflect the diversity of stakeholders whose interests have shaped the meaning of this urban space which stretches from the Skytrain interchange "Siam" to Ratchaprasong intersection.

Yet, when yellow and red shirted protesters both relocated their anti-government rallies to "Siam" in March 2006 or April/May 2010, respectively, they seemed to grasp the wider symbolic meaning of the area. An analysis of that meaning introduces a "spatial turn" to the study of Thailand. Given that, in modern states, the struggle over authority and interpretations plays out in public spaces, in their usage, composition and development, the question this research aims to answer is: How does Siam-Ratchaprasong as a place of spatial tactics and strategies reflect and/or (re)produce sociopolitical relations in Thailand.

A study of Siam-Ratchaprasong, its architeture, ownership structures and everyday usage offers a deeper reading of the changes in the social configurations in contemporary Thailand. At the same time the study applies recent theories coming from architectural sociology and the sociology of space to a non-European context, thus testing and refining their empirical applicability.