Siege Of The Spirits: Community And Polity In Bangkok

Paperback | March 11, 2016

byMichael Herzfeld

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What happens when three hundred alleged squatters go head-to-head with an enormous city government looking to develop the place where they live? As anthropologist Michael Herzfeld shows in this book, the answer can be surprising. He tells the story of Pom Mahakan, a tiny enclave in the heart of old Bangkok whose residents have resisted authorities’ demands to vacate their homes for a quarter of a century. It’s a story of community versus government, of old versus new, and of political will versus the law.
           
Herzfeld argues that even though the residents of Pom Mahakan have lost every legal battle the city government has dragged them into, they have won every public relations contest, highlighting their struggle as one against bureaucrats who do not respect the age-old values of Thai/Siamese social and cultural order. Such values include compassion for the poor and an understanding of urban space as deeply embedded in social and ritual relations. In a gripping account of their standoff, Herzfeld—who simultaneously argues for the importance of activism in scholarship—traces the agile political tactics and styles of the community’s leadership, using their struggle to illuminate the larger difficulties, tensions, and unresolved debates that continue to roil Thai society to this day. 

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What happens when three hundred alleged squatters go head-to-head with an enormous city government looking to develop the place where they live? As anthropologist Michael Herzfeld shows in this book, the answer can be surprising. He tells the story of Pom Mahakan, a tiny enclave in the heart of old Bangkok whose residents have resisted...

Michael Herzfeld is the Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University and has taught at several other universities worldwide. He is the author of many books, most recently The Body Impolitic and Evicted from Eternity, both also published by the University of Chicago Press. 

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.63 inPublished:March 11, 2016Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022633161X

ISBN - 13:9780226331614

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“Herzfeld draws on his ethnography of local resistance to demonstrate how the local people have not destroyed but created a sacred historic space with humanity and dignity. This book makes a significant contribution to the anthropology of politics, both in a general sense and in the context of the violently political conflicts of Thailand. Much of the prevailing discourse on politics in Thailand focuses on the contradictions between two different kinds of political systems, and treat Thailand as a country swinging between monarchy and democracy. Herzfeld, however, not just revives the anthropological discussion of how ‘pulsating galactic polity’ and nation-state polity coexist in postcolonial times, but stresses the agency of the local people to move between the two polity models when they are fighting for their community. Tracing the community’s strategy and leadership style, this book demonstrates the deep tension and dynamics in Thai political culture. With his involvement in the local resistance for more than ten years, Herzfeld also shows us how engaged anthropology can be as one part of the real political society.”