"Ratchaprasong is alive" - Bangkok's Decentered Spaces of Security and Public Performance

  • Eric Haanstad (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


Iconic images of the charred remains of CentralWorld’s Zen department store continue to symbolize recent urban unrest in Thailand. Yet sites of arson and bombing near Ratchaprasong intersection are not merely zones of violence and insecurity, they also serve as new spaces for street vending, sidewalk performance and political vitality. This paper analyzes these conflicted urban spaces as emergent areas of decentralized entrepreneurship, democratic performance, and cultural generativity. I illustrate how former sites of violence are temporarily transformed into decentralized spaces of economic and political expression. As such, they lie on fault lines that represent the paradoxes of decentralization: on one hand, they are traumatic zones where a wounded governmental order institutes hyper-vigilance and surveillance. On the other hand, they are also decentered spaces of localized entrepreneurialism, street performance, and ongoing protest which commemorates moments of political suppression and expression. Though paradoxical, these decentered and performative spaces are nevertheless intertwined, embedded in state security operations and government-sanctioned profiteering. Thus, the burned buildings and reconstruction sites are culturally generative zones, where both neoliberal statecraft and its potentially revolutionary counterparts are forged.