We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Reading Bangkok

Ross King

Publication Year: 2011

Reading Bangkok is an account of stories and meanings derived from the built fabric and spaces of Thailand's capital city. The narrative shifts from King Taksin's mostly forgotten but wondrous Thonburi to the tourist spectacle of Rattanakosin, Dusit and Ratchadamnoen (King Rama V's superficial emulation of an admired, imperialist Europe), Sukhumvit Road (consumer land), and the slums that are part of the modern city. Levels of external intrusion (colonisation) and local resistance provide a structuring device for the book. The geographical movement from the centre to periphery (Thonburi, Rattanakosin, Ratchadamnoen, Sukhumvit, Ratchadapisek, Khlong Toei, the universities) takes place in tandem with a chronological transition from internal or self-colonisation (Bangkok's incorporation of its periphery, which in turn colonised Bangkok), to the economic colonisation of the 19th and 20th centuries, the invasion of globalised tourism (colonisation by consumption), colonisation by the "better" ideas of others — typically in the West, and finally to colonisation by "better" ways of thinking — notably the intrusions of the universities and of popular democracy. This highly original study draws on history, anthropology, urban planning and development and political economy, and is supported by a rich body of empirical detail. It provides insights into a maze of power relations, inequalities and global influences that is normally hidden from view. Reading Bangkok is a rare thing, an account that genuinely changes the way its subject is understood.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (67.3 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (61.0 KB)
pp. vii

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.1 KB)
pp. ix-xv

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (63.2 KB)
pp. xvii-18

I first visited Bangkok some 40 years ago. I recall it from that time as a green city, mostly two- and three-storeys, a skyline of trees, villas, small wooden houses and shophouses interrupted by the glory of gold and white prang — the temple spires — and a soft, civilised, unhurried place. Th e orange-robed monks were ubiquitous; so were American ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (431.0 KB)
pp. xix-xxxi

At about 8.30 am on Wednesday 19 May 2010, after several hours of early morning fighting, Royal Thai Army tanks and armoured personnel carriers crashed through barricades that had closed down the commercial heart of Bangkok for more than six weeks. They initially advanced into the Silom and Sala Daeng area, Bangkok’s “Wall Street”. The red-shirted ...

read more

Chapter 1. Landscapes of Illusion and the First Level of Colonisation: Th onburi-Kudijeen, Rattanankosin, Ratchadamnoen

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 1-42

There are difficulties in understanding — reading — Bangkok. It is, at least to the Western eye, a city of chaos, a landscape of incoherent collisions and blurring overlays. It is a city of sharp contrasts, collisions and inconsistencies (juxtapositions), also a space of screens, overlays and surfaces (superimpositions). There is constant ambiguity, in the screens ...

read more

Chapter 2. Landscapes of the Modern Age and the Second Level of Colonisation: Charoen Krung, Silom, Ratchadamnoen

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.0 MB)
pp. 43-86

Thanon Charoen Krung runs from the old city of Rattanakosin downstream along the Maenam Chao Phraya eastern riverbank, serving the succession of Bangkok’s early ports, Chinese and Western trading companies and the early Western embassies. Together with the grand ceremonial avenue of Thanon Ratchadamnoen, it constitutes the landscape ...

read more

Chapter 3. Libidinal Landscapes and the Third Level of Colonisation: Sukhumvit

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.7 MB)
pp. 87-125

In the following, “Sukhumvit” will be used rather loosely to refer to the whole eastward highway of Rama I, Phloenchit and Sukhumvit itself. In large measure, Sukhumvit is the armature on which the city grew in the 20th century and presents Bangkok at its most diverse, layered, ambiguous, heterotopic. If one penetrates beneath its surface appearances, it is the landscape from which one is to read ...

read more

Chapter 4. Landscapes of Ruin and the Fourth Level of Colonisation: Ratchadapisek, the Khlong Toei slums

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.3 MB)
pp. 126-165

The fourth level of colonisation is that of the culture itself. Various of its manifestations have been observed in Chapter 3, in the context of an increasingly globalised world from the 1960s onwards: American R&R and then international tourism transformed long tolerated practices of polygamy and sexual dalliance, the shopping mall transformed ...

read more

Chapter 5. Landscapes of the Mind and the Fifth Level of Colonisation: The Universities

pdf iconDownload PDF (616.7 KB)
pp. 166-198

The fifth level of the (neo-)colonisation of Thailand and of Asia more widely is that of the mind — of the ways that knowledge is socially constructed. Th e language wars of the 20th century saw the emergence of English as the one medium of global communication, although the “fatality of human linguistic diversity” — the way that a language takes ...

read more

Epilogue: The City Unmasked

pdf iconDownload PDF (466.0 KB)
pp. 199-209

The main entrance gates to Thammasat University are on Th anon Na Phra That and immediately face Sanam Luang. As one enters, there is the bulk of the university’s Auditorium building on the left, in an undistinguished style that makes passing references to both religious and official-nationalist architecture, and a linear garden, some 80 metres ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (65.8 KB)
pp. 210-212


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.5 KB)
pp. 213-222


pdf iconDownload PDF (121.3 KB)
pp. 223-239


pdf iconDownload PDF (113.4 KB)
pp. 240-259

E-ISBN-13: 9789971695927
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695460

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 59 images
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: New