SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Moving in the cracks: motorcycle taxi drivers, street protest, and the fragility of power in the Thai capital

Claudio Sopranzetti
Claudio Sopranzetti (Oxford University)

Date: 25 February 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 25 February 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


This talk explores the mobility of motorcycle taxi drivers in Bangkok as well their adoption of it 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, directed their roles in  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. In this sense, they reveal the fragility of state power in the Thai capital and its inability to control these mobile subjects.

Speaker Biography

Claudio Sopranzetti is a Posdoctoral Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University. He received 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: inside the Thai Red Shirts movement," an ethnographic account of the 2010 protest in the Thai capital.

Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office

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