UPCOMING PUBLIC SEMINAR: "Politics of Nature Conservation in Thailand" by Dr. Pinkaew Laungaramsri [20 January 2017]


14:30 - 16:30, Alumni Meeting Room, 12th Floor, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Co-organized by Institute of Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC) and Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS), Chulalongkorn University

This talk focuses on the process of social production of nature within the changing political economy of modern Thailand. By historicizing nature, I argue that the so-called untouchable, self-regulating, human-free nature” has primarily been a product of constant state intervention in forest and natural landscapes since the turn of the twentieth century. The making of first naturehas been an intimate part of the process of state-building, in which nature as economic capital is no less important than nature as symbolic capital”  a signifier of the modern and civilized nation-state. Thai states adoption of North American wilderness thinking within the countrys particular stage of capital accumulation has engendered an ambivalence between nature conservation and economic development. Used as a tool to modernize the country and its people, Thai nature conservation abandons the wild freedom of areas once beyond the reach of the state and assigns new functions to the landscape now designated as protectedUnspoiled nature has also been built along the ethnic and class line. While the most perilous threat to the nature forest constructed by the state has been the agricultural activities of the hill tribes often portrayed as the dark side of nature, urban middle-class has been held as the savior of the fragile nature. Militarization of park management has therefore coincided with the growing desire of urban middle-class for nature consumption. As a national space, national park in Thailand since its inception has therefore come to serve as a effective tool to delineate the Thai from the non-Thai other. Nature and nation-building have thus been an integral part of the history of marginalization of the modern Thai society.