“Owners of the Map: mobility and mobilization in the Thai capital”: On May 19, 2010, the Royal Thai Army deployed tanks, snipers, and war weapons to disperse the thousands of Red Shirts protesters who had taken over the commercial center of Bangkok to demand democratic elections and an end to inequality. Key to this mobilization were motorcycle taxi drivers, who slowed down, filtered, and severed mobility in the area, claiming a prominent role in national politics and ownership over the city and challenging state hegemony. Nine year later, the same army general who directed the dispersal rules over the country unopposed by protesters, after he staged a coup in 2014. How could state power have been so fragile and open to challenge in 2010 and yet so seemingly sturdy in the present? How could protesters who had once fearlessly resisted military attacks now remain silent? This talk provides answers to these questions through an ethnography of motorcycle taxi drivers political participation. In so doing, I propose an analysis of power that does not focus on the sturdiness of hegemony or the ubiquity of everyday resistance but on the potential fragility of state power and the work needed for its maintenance.
Thursday, April 4, 2019, 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm