The Frog and the Dinosaurs: Two Big Models of Thainess and One Small Space in Bangkok – a seminar by Prof Michael Herzfeld (Wed, 15 January 2014)

Speaker: Prof Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University)
Date: Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)
Chairperson: Dr Muhammad Arafat Bin Mohamad

The tiny (pop. approx.300) community of Pom Mahakan, which the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration does not officially recognize, has, for 21 years, been host to a protracted struggle between two understandings of Thai identity.  What happens here, where the Red Shirt/Yellow Shirt conflict is largely subordinated to the fight for collective survival, the tactile management of a very cramped space dramatizes, exaggerates, and occasionally distorts ongoing debates about the country’s future in cultural, spatial, and tactile terms.  These concerns also have serious implications for town-planning in Thailand in particular, and in the ethnographic analysis of “informal” processes – although the formal/informal distinction is itself part of the problem – in southeast Asian urbanism more generally.

About the speaker
Michael Herzfeld is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. He served as editor of American Ethnologist during 1994-98. A recipient of the J.I. Staley Prize of the School of American Research on 1994 (for Anthropology through the Looking-Glass, 1987) and of the Rivers Memorial Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (London) in the same year, he received an honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2005. He has conducted research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand on topics that include the social impact and political implications of historic conservation and gentrification, the social dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. Among his ten books are A Place in History: Social and Monumental Time in a Cretan Town (1991), The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value (2004), and Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome (2009). He also filmed and produced Monti Moments: Men’s Memories in the Heart of Rome (2007).