The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City

The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City

The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City

The Intimate Economies of Bangkok: Tomboys, Tycoons, and Avon Ladies in the Global City

Synopsis

Bangkok has been at the frontier of capitalism's drive into the global south for three decades. Rapid development has profoundly altered public and private life in Thailand. In her provocative study of contemporary commerce in Bangkok, Ara Wilson captures the intimate effects of the global economy in this vibrant city.

The Intimate Economies of Bangkok is a multifaceted portrait of the intertwining of identities, relationships, and economics during Bangkok's boom years. Using innovative case studies of women's and men's participation in a range of modern markets--department stores, go-go bars, a popular downtown mall, a telecommunications company, and the direct sales corporations Amway and Avon--Wilson chronicles the powerful expansion of capitalist exchange into further reaches of Thai society. She shows how global economies have interacted with local systems to create new kinds of lifestyles, ranging from "tomboys" to corporate tycoons to sex workers.

Combining feminist theory with classic anthropological understandings of exchange, this historically grounded ethnography maps the reverberations of gender, sexuality, and ethnicity at the hub of Bangkok's modern economy.

Excerpt

Two of Bangkok’s well-known tourist attractions offer clues for understanding the powerful effects of the global economy unfolding in Thailand today. the first attraction is the photogenic “floating market,” the early-morning market in canals where women sell produce and goods from small canoes. the second is the commercial zone of “Chinatown,” specifically Sampeng Lane, a dense street of wholesale shophouses. By evoking colorful markets from Thailand’s past, these attractions point to the cultural, even intimate, properties of the economy.

Floating markets feature women in indigo clothes and straw hats selling fruits, vegetables, snacks, and also T-shirts, silk garments, and knickknacks. On the banks of the canal, warehouse-sized stores are piled high with souvenirs. Organized tours take tourists a few hours outside Bangkok proper to visit “one of the most authentic left in Thailand,” where they can purchase items and take photographs of “this millennium old tradition [on the] verge of extinction.”

The distinctive picture of the vendors in their small boats, loaded with baskets of produce, offers a recognizable symbol of Thai traditions. Images of the floating market pervade the tourist archive, providing a standard graphic for postcards, coffee-table books, T-shirts, and posters. the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.