Learn from Elsewhere: Historic preservation in Bangkok, Thailand

Authors: Napong Tao Rugkhapan*, Thammasat University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Bangkok; heritage; historic preservation; policy mobilities; cultural geography; expertise
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The paper concerns the case of government-led historic preservation in Bangkok's historic district. It argues that historic preservation is a form of policy mobilities par excellence. Inspired by success stories abroad, the city government of Bangkok has heavily borrowed a range of ideas popular among international urban policymakers. First and foremost, the idea of heritage itself is very global in character. The term has been popularized by an influential international organization like the UNESCO, so much so it has become part of the repertoire of intervention among planners and preservationists everywhere. Similarly, Bangkok’s attempt to institute design guidelines are inspired by successful experiences in the neighboring countries, such as Singapore. However, the process of policy borrowing opens up a range of important questions. Specifically, the goal of this research is twofold. The first is to unpack the dense terrain of urban policy borrowing, by teasing out the complex processes, mechanisms, and actors through which a given policy is borrowed/mobilized. Second and more importantly, the project seeks to uncover the politics associated with urban policy borrowing. That is, while we would love to believe that a policy is meant to amount to something desirable, its benevolence should not be taken as given. Instead, policy borrowing is fraught with potential conflicts, contestations, and negative consequences.

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