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Building the Future from the Past: A Bangkok Community's Material Dreams

Lecture: Other UCB Archaeology | December 6 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 223 Moses Hall

Michael Herzfeld, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

Center for Southeast Asia Studies, Department of Anthropology

This talk originates out of series of community meetings in the Pom Mahakan community (Rattanakosin Island) in Bangkok, Thailand, and will show how residents construct ideals of past social and spatial arrangements to project a vision of their future lives together. That vision has been threatened by the looming threat of collective eviction for two decades now, and the tense relations between the residents and city bureaucrats have only served to sharpen their focus and determination. The analysis rests on a sustained critique of the distinction between tangible and intangible heritage, and shows how such polarities all too easily serve the interests of a bureaucratic vision that would occlude all sense of social and cultural vibrancy.

Prof. Herzfeld (Ph.D., Oxford) has conducted extensive fieldwork in Greece, Italy, and Thailand, and is author of nine books, including The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value (2004), Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation State (revised edition, 2005), and Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome (2009). His research most recently has been focused on the politics of eviction and historic conservation in Bangkok. Prof. Herzfeld’s work has received many prizes, including from the Royal Anthropological Institute and the School of American Research. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997., 510-642-3609