Jim Taylor on red shirts

2 04 2011

Readers may be interested to read Jim Taylor’s most recent publication, Larger Than Life: ‘Central World’ and its Demise and Rebirth – Red Shirts and the Creation of an Urban Cultural Myth in Thailand, published by the Asia Research Institute at the Ntional University of Singapore, in March this year, as working paper No. 150.

The abstract is:

This paper looks at the cultural and political implications of the arson of Bangkok’s Central World Shopping Complex, one of the Asian region’s largest sites of elite/middleclass consumption – a “lifestyle destination centre” and a dreamscape. The destruction has become a new urban myth which has hit at the heart of late modern urban Thai values. The site itself is situated next to where the pro-democracy red-shirt protestors were gathered at the Raacha’prasong Intersection and culminated in the final day of the violent crackdown 19 May 2010. I argue that the symbolic and economic gesture of the destruction of the shopping complex has had massive ramifications for political events that followed and as justification for the regime’s extra-judicial and military response to the crisis. Henceforth the social movement’s leaders were labelled in a post 9/11 discourse as state “terrorists”. The unarmed, mostly rural demonstrators, women, children and men, were blamed in deprecating terms by the Bangkok bourgeoisie and state apparatuses for the arson. But I argue that evidence indicates the contrary may be the case; that it was in fact an act of guile by the state to justify the massacres and witch-hunt which followed the crackdown in the centre of Bangkok.

 

This paper looks at the cultural and political implications of the arson of Bangkok’s Central World Shopping Complex, one of the Asian region’s largest sites of elite/middleclass consumption – a “lifestyle destination centre” and a dreamscape. The destruction has become a new urban myth which has hit at the heart of late modern urban Thai values. The site itself is situated next to where the pro-democracy red-shirt protestors were gathered at the Raacha’prasong Intersection and culminated in the final day of the violent crackdown 19 May 2010. I argue that the symbolic and economic gesture of the destruction of the shopping complex has had massive ramifications for political events that followed and as justification for the regime’s extra-judicial and military response to the crisis. Henceforth the social movement’s leaders were labelled in a post 9/11 discourse as state “terrorists”. The unarmed, mostly rural demonstrators, women, children and men, were blamed in deprecating terms by the Bangkok bourgeoisie and state apparatuses for the arson. But I argue that evidence indicates the contrary may be the case; that it was in fact an act of guile by the state to justify the massacres and witch-hunt which followed the crackdown in the centre of Bangkok. This paper looks at the cultural and political implications of the arson of Bangkok’s Central World Shopping Complex, one of the Asian region’s largest sites of elite/middleclass consumption – a “lifestyle destination centre” and a dreamscape. The destruction has become a new urban myth which has hit at the heart of late modern urban Thai values. The site itself is situated next to where the pro-democracy red-shirt protestors were gathered at the Raacha’prasong Intersection and culminated in the final day of the violent crackdown 19 May 2010. I argue that the symbolic and economic gesture of the destruction of the shopping complex has had massive ramifications for political events that followed and as justification for the regime’s extra-judicial and military response to the crisis. Henceforth the social movement’s leaders were labelled in a post 9/11 discourse as state “terrorists”. The unarmed, mostly rural demonstrators, women, children and men, were blamed in deprecating terms by the Bangkok bourgeoisie and state apparatuses for the arson. But I argue that evidence indicates the contrary may be the case; that it was in fact an act of guile by the state to justify the massacres and witch-hunt which followed the crackdown in the centre of Bangkok.

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