Nov 20, 2013

"(Im)mobilizing Bangkok: motorcycle taxi drivers and politics in the Thai capital."

Claudio Sopranzetti, Postdoctoral Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford University

This talk explores the multiple roles of motorcycle taxi drivers in the everyday life of Bangkok as well as during the Red Shirt protests of 2010. I analyze how the drivers' physical mobility through traffic shapes their ability to find unexplored routes in the social, economic, and political landscapes of the city and to create paths for action where other urban dwellers see a traffic jam or a political gridlock. Such ability, I argue, was revealed during the street protest which blocked the center of Bangkok. When the everyday life of the city broke down, this talk will show, the drivers took advantage of their position in urban circuits of exchange to emerge as central political actors in contemporary Bangkok by blocking, slowing down, or filtering the circulation of people, goods, and information which they normally facilitate. 

Claudio Sopranzetti is a Posdoctoral Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University. He recevied his PhD in anthropology from Harvard University in 2013 with a dissertation titled "The Owners of the Map: mobility and politics among motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok." He is also the author of Red Journeys: Into the Thai Red Shirt Movement, (2012), an ethnographic account of the 2010 protest in the Thai capital.


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