Problematizing creativity discourse in Bangkok

Authors: Napong Tao Rugkhapan*, Thammasat University
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Asia
Keywords: creativity; policy mobilities; displacement; creative district
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The paper investigates the state actors’ discourse of creativity in reimagining the old town of Bangkok, Thailand. In recent years, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has taken keen interest in the city’s old quarter as a newfound site of intervention. Today, old urban fabric (e.g. townhouses, warehouses, narrow lanes, exposed bricks) is revalorized, coinciding with the larger global municipal movement towards inner-city revitalization. The paper contrasts two cases: Ong Ang canal clearance and Charoen Krung Creative District. The first exposes BMA’s ruthless role in removing canal-side communities to recreate a clean, visually appealing landscape ‘like other places’. In the second, the state takes a more passive role in facilitating non-state agents (designers, artists, universities) in turning an old quarter into a Creative District with a distinctly middle-class taste. Both cases highlight the state’s role, active and passive, in imagining creative placemaking. Through the two cases, the paper seeks to reveal the epistemic making-up of creativity, paying particular attention to the transnational character of creative policies. My argument is threefold. First, while the planning intervention is local, it is globally inspired by the imaginaries of ‘successful’ elsewheres. I analyze the state’s discourse of creativity as a global-local negotiation, whereby BMA’s understanding of creativity is contingent upon (and therefore curtailed by) its selective perception of foreign successes. Second and relatedly, these imaginaries of success serve to legimatise state decisions, mobilizing resources, placing desired bodies, and displacing undesired ones. Third, I return to the poststructuralist question of Definition: who gets to define creativity.

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