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Beyond the Urban-Rural Divide: Complexities of Class, Status and Hierarchy in Bankok

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Abstract The Thai political conflict is often described in terms of an urban-rural class divide. Using an emic, ethnographic approach, I problematise this analysis by examining Bangkokian notions of class and status differentiation. These have their bases in the feudal sakdina era as well as notions of Buddhist hierarchy, and privilege cosmopolitanism, foreignness and wealth, as encapsulated by such hybrid concepts as ‘inter’ and ‘hi-so’ — both of which are adopted from the English language phrases ‘international’ and ‘high society’, respectively. Such notions cannot adequately be explained in terms of Western-centric concepts of class, yet are nevertheless shaped by Thailand’s historical engagement with Western powers as well as subsequent processes of globalization. Furthermore, status appraisal in Bangkok includes nuanced distinctions of consumption, education, ethnicity, and occupation, amongst other things, while simultaneously having a situational characteristic. This compels us to examine a variety of factors beyond the urban-rural divide in the discussion of the ongoing crisis.

Affiliations: 1: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity Germany


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