Accepted paper:

Bangkok protests in the name of democracy


Karin Dean (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

The casting of mass protests in Bangkok as a struggle between social classes is based on the Western political history and its definitions. The paper argues for reading local struggles within the local contexts and for creating conditions to see multiplicity and the remaking of socio-spatial orders.

Paper long abstract:

Bangkok has witnessed protracted mass protests drawing hundreds of thousands of ”people” for almost a decade. The conflict is widely cast as a struggle between two social classes – the uneducated and poor, donning red shirts, and the educated urban “middle classes”, previously known as the yellow shirts. Both sides demand democracy and justice. However, while the “class” aspect exists, the approach originating in the Western political history with its definitions of democracy, corruption and class, and a tendency towards black-and-white constructivism (e.g. left and right, urban and rural) obscures the roots of the conflict, deeply embedded in the particular trajectories of evolvement and local cultures. The paper argues for care in applying the Euro-centric master terms such as democracy or class when discussing contemporary global developments. These notions, constructed and often also promoted by Western dominated academia, are today travelling all over the world in “their free-lance translations” creating “ever new terminological kaleidoscopes” (Appadurai 2000), having frequently been appropriated by various interest groups. Thus it is imperative to prioritize the facets of local struggles within the local political, social and cultural contexts that are always diverse and complex, with their trajectories of evolvement and composition often uniquely contextual. The paper argues for the need to create conditions to see multiplicity instead of singular, overcoded and explanatory frameworks. It focuses on the making of these conditions and on the need to see the remaking of the socio-spatial orders that borrow extensively from both the Western notions and wider global processes.

panel P084
The worldwide urban mobilizations: conundrums of 'democracy', 'the middle class' and 'the people'. Supported by Focaal and the IUAES Commission on Global Transformation and Marxian Anthropology